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JazzTimes 10: Essential Lennie Tristano Recordings

To honor the influential—and controversial—pianist’s centennial, here are 10 of his greatest moments

“As for Lennie Tristano, I’d like to go on record as saying I endorse his work in every particular.” —Charlie Parker, 1953

Born 100 years ago (March 19, 1919), pianist Lennie Tristano has represented controversy for most of that century. Nobody can deny that he grasped the cutting edge of early bebop and ably took it in his own idiosyncratic, ingenious direction. That direction had some disturbing elements, though: Tristano had little use for the blues, called Thelonious Monk “just about the dumbest pianist I’ve ever heard,” and was and is seen—not unfairly—as attempting to erase the music’s African-American distinction. Though he died in 1978, the backlash against him has never entirely faded.

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Originally Published

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.