Lennie Tristano: Expressions
Lennie Tristano (piano)
Concert in Copenhagen (Jazz Records JR12)
Lennie Tristano (piano).
Composed by Lennie Tristano.
Recorded: Tivoli Gardens Concert Hall, Copenhagen, October 31, 1965
Rating: 96/100 (learn more)
The mid-1960s was a period of ferment and experimentation in the jazz world, and Lennie Tristano continued to develop and expand his keyboard conception. Of course, fans would hardly have been aware of this. At the time of this concert, Tristano could look back at the previous decade and count only one session that had shown up on LP. He had no manager and told an interviewer during this European visit that playing jazz was only possible if one were "making a living some other way."
But the fire still burnt inside Tristano, and he takes total command of the piano on this dense, percussive performance. This artist had been publicly critical of the Free Jazz movement, but he partakes here of its guiding spirit (as he had, indeed, even before Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor made their mark, as demonstrated on his 1953 "Descent Into the Maelstrom"). "Expressions" finds him again pushing the limits of tonal improvisation. Bristly and brilliant, this is one of the finest solo piano recordings of the decade. One wonders what Tristano might have accomplished as part of the Blue Note or Impulse stable of artists during this period, collaborating in combo settings with the cutting-edge artists of the mid-1960s. Certainly Tristano, circa 1965, was playing at the peak of his career.
But who knew? . . . since record labels had bypassed this artist. Even today this little known track, from one of Tristano's last recorded performances, is a hard-to-find collector's item. Yet those who go to the trouble of hunting down the scattered relics of late-vintage Tristano are unlikely to be disappointed.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia