Lennie Tristano, including The New Tristano (Atlantic/Rhino)
Researching notes for the forthcoming Don Friedman album discussed in this post a couple of weeks ago led me to revisit the original Lennie Tristano recording of “Requiem.” Friedman includes the piece on his CD. Tristano recorded it with his trio on the death of Charlie Parker in 1955. A dirge with overtones of the romantic classical period that transforms into a slow blues in F, “Requiem” carries an impact that gives the lie to critical potshots over the years accusing Tristano of an intellectual approach that shut out emotion. There is plenty of emotion in the trio tracks with bassist Peter Ind and drummer Jeff Morton and in the remarkable live quartet performances, also recorded in 1955, at New York’s Sing Song Room. The quartet features Tristano’s most prominent student and adherent, alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, with bassist Gene Ramey and drummer Art Taylor. Captured in superb early two-track stereo, the repertoire is standard songs, with Konitz at the top of his lyrical game and Tristano at his most relaxed, inventing lines that in places reflect his admiration for Parker and elsewhere spring from the well of originality that made him such an influence on other pianists.
On the unaccompanied pieces originally released in 1962 in The New Tristano, the rhythmic force of his left hand and its interaction with the inventions of his right carry feeling that affected pianists including Bill Evans. Tristano’s unorthodox harmonic conception and his incorporation of block chords had an impact on Evans, Clare Fischer and Alan Broadbent, among others, and can be heard in George Shearing’s work with his quintet. Tristano transforms the harmonic patterns of standard songs into originals. “Deliberation,” for instance, is based on “Indiana,” the three-part “Scene and Variations” on “My Melancholy Baby,” “G-minor Complex” on “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To.”
In all, the reissue in 1994 of these Tristano albums together makes the CD a basic repertoire item in any serious collection. It should continue to be available to inspire developing musicians and for general enjoyment.