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Lennie Tristano and Free Jazz

Jazz pianist Lennie Tristano is called an improvisational genius and groundbreaker — but one who was difficult to get along with, at least professionally. Jazz.com sums it up:

But the main reason why Tristano is usually discussed as a symbol or theorist rather than as a musician stems from the man himself. Tristano was frank, opinionated, and not afraid of bucking the system. Critics frequently reviewed the man’s personality rather than his records. And, as time went on, there were fewer and fewer records to review.

The profile at Tristano’s site notes that he was an important innovator:

Until relatively recently, it had seldom been acknowledged that Tristano had been the first to perform and record a type of music that came to be called “free jazz.” In 1949 — almost a decade before the making of Ornette Coleman’s first records — Tristano’s group (which included Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, and Billy Bauer) cut the first recorded example of freely improvised music in the history of jazz. The two cuts, “Intuition” and “Digression,” were created spontaneously, without any pre-ordained reference to time, tonality, or melody. The resultant work was an outgrowth of Tristano’s preoccupation with feeling and spontaneity in the creation of music. It influenced, among others, Charles Mingus, whose earliest records sound eerily similar to those of Tristano in terms of style and compositional technique. Mingus came by the influence honestly; he studied with the pianist for a period in the early ’50s, as did many other well-known jazz musicians, such as Sal Mosca, Phil Woods, and the aforementioned Konitz and Marsh.

Here is a nice essay on Tristano by Jeffery Taylor at The Stranger.

There is not much footage of Tristano. Thus, both clips apparently are from the same concert, which was in Copenhagen in 1965. Above is “You Don’t Know What Love is” and below is “Lullaby of the Leaves.”

Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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