Lennie Tristano/Lee Konitz/Warne Marsh: The Complete Atlantic Recordings

C. Andrew Hovan By

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While the hard bop music of the 1950s and 1960s has seen a considerable revival and now prospers in the hands of scores of talented youngsters, other historical genres have not been so fondly remembered nor have fared as well. The cerebral music of pianist Lennie Tristano and his cohorts has been largely neglected by all but a few historians and the small number of surviving players that came under the spell of the iconoclast pianist during his brief period in the spotlight. A recent six-disc or ten-LP boxed set from Mosaic provides a very valuable and logical package in that is presents Tristano's ground-breaking sessions for Atlantic and also brings to the forefront long out-of-print dates from two of his closest associates, alto saxophonist Lee Konitz and tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh.

The first two discs present all the surviving material from a live show in 1955 that finds Tristano working with Konitz, bassist Gene Ramey, and drummer Art Taylor. Largely consisting of be-bop standards, we find a few Tristano originals in addition to a few choice tunes from Warne Marsh. There is certainly a be-bop flair to much of this music, yet the cooler approach of Tristano and Konitz makes this more than your average blowing session. Up next are the two Tristano sessions that are chiefly considered his historical masterpieces. The first set from 1954-55 includes trio cuts with bassist Peter Ind and drummer Jeff Morton and features such quintessential tunes as "Turkish Mambo" and "Requiem". The latter solo performances come from 1960-1961 and originally appeared as the LP The New Tristano.

We then come to the Konitz material, again, much of which has been unavailable for quite some time. Inside Hi-Fi, from 1956, contains quartet pieces which benefit from the work of pianist Sal Mosca and guitarist Billy Bauer and the quality recording job of Rudy Van Gelder. Especially noteworthy are the several cuts that feature Konitz on the tenor saxophone. His warm and liquid approach translates extremely well to the bigger horn and it's a shame that he's rarely heard on the tenor these days. Available only previously in Japan, the next set of Konitz performances find him on the west coast working with Jimmy Rowles, Leroy Vinnegar, and Shelly Manne. This is an all-standards set that covers no new ground, yet is quite enjoyable. For a more impressive outing, we turn next to the live cuts that originally appeared on The Real Lee Konitz. With Peter Ind and Billy Bauer again on board, the spirit is there and the creative juices are flowing. The sound is rough, but the music is memorable and highly inspired.

For the Warne Marsh section of this package we get two sets that rank among the finest moments of the entire boxed set. Marsh was an extremely warm and melodic player who unfortunately got overshadowed and ignored for most of his career. The celebrated Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh date from 1955 is a supreme accomplishment that has been gone from the Atlantic catalog for too long. Suffice it to say that this one is worth the price of admission and successfully pairs two of the music's most melodic players. Finally, Marsh's self-titled album cut in '57/'58 is another previously ignored gem that deserves renewed interest.

As with all Mosaic issues, you'll find a quality presentation that includes newly- restored sound quality and a highly-informative booklet that features rare photographs, an opening essay from Larry Kart, and the original liner notes. Only available by mail, contact Mosaic Records at 35 Melrose Place, Stamford, Connecticut, 06902. They can also be reached on the web at mosaicrecords.com.

Title: The Complete Atlantic Recordings | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Mosaic Records


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