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

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.

January 21, 2008 · 0 comments

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Mark Turner (with Joshua Redman): 317 East 32nd Street

As a student at Berklee, Mark Turner was looking for an alternative to the dominant post-bebop ideology, and discovering Tristano and Warne Marsh opened new doors to him. On his first Warner record, he includes among other tunes from Coltrane, Ornette Coleman or himself this classic penned by the blind pianist from Chicago, and invites his friend Joshua Redman to join in. Its a good occasion to appreciate Turners sensitive assimilation of the linear approach that Tristano advocated, and to revel in his mastery of the whole register of his horn. Redman, on the contrary, is obviously not very versed in the Tristano aesthetics and his solo is basically related to the bop idiom. An interesting contrast between two young tenors of the nineties: one of them soon became a star, the other ones quest is still on its way.

January 21, 2008 · 0 comments

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Brent Jensen & David Sills: 317 East 32nd Street

Aside from its inherent worth as an excellent performance by two superior saxophonists, 317 E. 32nd St. is also interesting for its influences and inspirations. Brent Jensen and David Sills are among a handful of contemporary saxophonists whose playing reflects the values of such antecedent modern sax men as Lee Konitz (still active at this writing) and Warne Marsh, who developed personal styles not directly modeled on Charlie Parkers. Emphasizing the connection, Jensen and Sills sail through a composition by Lennie Tristano, a cool school icon in whose groups Konitz and Marsh were often featured.

November 08, 2007 · 0 comments

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