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


Buddy DeFranco: Out of Nowhere

At this writing, DeFranco continues to be an excellent musician playing an instrument that fell out of favor early in his career. Although he was certainly on the level of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, DeFranco was never able to cash in on his incredible playing the way his heroes did. After stints with Tommy Dorsey (his clarinet solo on the recording of "Opus No. 1" remains a classic) and Boyd Raeburn, DeFranco fronted an excellent small group before trying his luck as a big band leader. The band only lasted a few months before DeFranco joined Norman Granz's stable of soloists who toured all over the world. This track comes from DeFranco's first MGM session with an all-star studio ensemble recorded before the touring edition was formed. Under a straightforward ensemble background, DeFranco states the melody in an equally straightforward manner during the first chorus. The improvised solo in the second chorus begins in the low register, and maintains this easygoing feeling until the 'B' section. Then DeFranco cuts loose in a breathless burst of bop for another chorus and a half, even throwing in a quote from "Fascinating Rhythm." The result stuns and grips the listener with the sheer virtuosity and melodic beauty of DeFranco's art. The record seems to be over before it has started.

December 27, 2007 · 0 comments


Dave Brubeck: Out of Nowhere

Enrollment at America's 1,870 institutions of higher learning In the early 1950s grew at 6% per annum, but appearances by modern jazzmen were as rare as a sighting of J.D. Salinger. Deforesting this virgin territory, Dave Brubeck logged 60 consecutive on-campus one-nighters in 1954, helping his Jazz Goes to College become a Top 10 fixture for two years, outselling even Liberace. "Out of Nowhere" exemplifies the Quartet's appeal, with Desmond's alto luxuriating over a steady pulse to orient the newly initiated undergrads, and classical-sounding counterpoint to appease the faculty. Together, Paul & Dave were a gentleman and a scholar.

December 05, 2007 · 0 comments


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