Lennie Tristano: Out of Nowhere / 317 East 32nd Street


Out of Nowhere / 317 East 32nd Street


Lennie Tristano (piano)


Lennie Tristano Quintet: Live in Toronto 1952 (Jazz Records JR5-CD)

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Lennie Tristano (piano), Warne Marsh (tenor sax), Lee Konitz (alto sax), Peter Ind (bass), Al Levitt (drums).

Composed by Lennie Tristano


Recorded: UJPO Hall, Toronto, July 17, 1952


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

Lennie Tristano made only a few visits to recording studios during his long career. His fans are thus forced to search out tapes of live performances—of varying levels of audio quality, and some rather difficult to track down—in order to gain a rounded sense of this artist's musical evolution. Tristano's live recording from Toronto in 1952 is one of the essential entries in this body of work, and features the pianist with perhaps his finest band. Only guitarist Billy Bauer, who refused to make the trip to Toronto, is missing from the core SWAT team of dedicated Tristano-ites. A few weeks later Konitz would join the Stan Kenton orchestra—breaking up the unit—while Marsh would stay on until leaving for California in 1955. But at the time of the Toronto engagement, these players had almost a half-decade of shared music-making under their belts, and their experience and comfort level shine through on this track.

This is Tristano's first recording of "317 East 32nd Street"—which would become one of his most widely played pieces—and the pianist helps identify its source by opening with a clever intro stating the "Out of Nowhere" standard from which his composition derives its chord changes. When Marsh and Konitz enter with Tristano's melody line, the effect is angelic. The tension that one sometimes hears in the earlier recordings of these players is nowhere evident, and the whole performance is a magnificent example of relaxed and thoughtful improvisation.

Much has been written on Tristano's forceful personality, and his musical clique has been, with some exaggeration, compared to a cult. But the source of his influence was ultimately the strength of his musical ideas, and here they reign supreme. Few jazz artists have done a better job of presenting their own unique conception of improvisation through an ensemble. Every solo is top notch here, and with a 9-minute running time, no one is rushed or harried. This track would make a good starting point for a musician trying to get a grasp of the essence of the Tristano sound and style.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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