The Record Collection

Lennie Tristano: Manhattan Studio (1955-56) 2000

Manhattan Studio

Track list:

01. Manhattan Studio
02. My Melancholy Baby
03. Lover Man
04. I’ll See You In My Dreams
05. There Will Never Be Another You
06. Momentum
07. Mean To Me
08. All The Things You Are
09. I’ll Remember April


Lennie Tristano – piano;
Peter Ind – bass;
Tom Weyburn – drums.

Recorded: Lennie Tristano’s Studio, 317 East 32nd Street, New York, N.Y.; 1955-1956
Recording Engineer: Lennie Tristano

Label: Jazz Records
JR 11 CD

Also released as: New York Improvisations
Elektra Musician
60264 [1983]

New York Improvisations

Chicago’s blind pianist Lennie Tristano (1919), of Italian-American descent, who arrived in New York in 1946, fused bebop and 20th-century classical music in his abstract meditations that wove extended melodies over subdued rhythms, the musical equivalent of a renaissance painting with a complex building in the foreground and a simple, pastoral landscape in the background.

He was not a poet but an architect: his pieces relied on several levels of counterpoint and even dissonance.

They were frigid and lifeless by the standards of jazz music.
Tristano coined that language in 1947, via a series of uncompromising recordings both solo (Atonement in may 1947, Spontaneous Combustion in september 1947) and in a drum-less trio with a guitarist (Billy Bauer) and a bassist (Dissonance, Parallel, Apellation, Abstraction, Palimpsest, Freedom in december 1947).
Two years later a quintet with Tristano, alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, guitarist Billy Bauer and drummer Shelly Manne laid the foundations for a group version of that art with Konitz’s Subconscious-Lee and Tristano’s Retrospection , off Lennie Tristano Quintet featuring Lee Konitz (january 1949), as well as Konitz’s Tautology on Lee Konitz with Tristano, Marsh and Bauer (january 1949).
Free jazz was invented in 1949 (ten years before the term was coined) when Tristano’s sextet (alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh, guitarist Billy Bauer, bass and drums) recorded Intuition and Digression, two completely improvised free-form jams (no pre-set tempo, meter or chord progression).

They were but two of the tracks of Crosscurrents (March 1949), that also included Wow and Sax of a Kind.

That album’s austere and elegant improvised counterpoint was as pioneering for cool jazz as Miles Davis’ Birth Of The Cool.

The dissonant Descent into the Maelstrom (June 1953), for overdubbed pianos, was an even more formidable attack against musical conventions.

Two pieces recorded in october 1951 by a piano-bass-drums trio, Ju-Ju and Pastime, were actually assembled in the studio by Tristano, manipulating and overdubbing sections of music.
After a three-year hiatus, the bluesy and fully improvised Requiem, Line Up, for another piano-drums-bass trio and accelerated in the studio, and Turkish Mambo, that overdubbed three tracks in different meters to create a rhythmic effect that a pianist could not achieve, all three off Lennie Tristano (1955), the nine improvisations of Manhattan Studio (1956) for piano trio (with Manhattan Studio and Momentum), Continuity (october 1958), with Warne Marsh, bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Paul Motian, off Continuity, and The New Tristano (1960), a set of breathtaking improvised piano solos (notably Becoming, the spectacular C Minor Complex, the suite Scene and Variations, Deliberation, G Minor Complex) continued to refine his language, which was now widely understood.

The dynamic of his compositions was often cyclic, alternating quiet passages and stormy passages, hinting at an endless cycle of rebirths.