JazzTimes 10: Essential Lennie Tristano Recordings

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

  1. Lennie Tristano Trio: “Dissonance” (Disgression, Starsound, 2017 [originally recorded December 31, 1947])

Let it never be said that Tristano didn’t offer truth in advertising. Yes, “Dissonance” features just that—and in its opening bars, the pianist not only plays dissonance on his own, but gets his trio partners, Bauer and Fishkin, to stack up more. This was at the time when Parker and Monk’s thorough reharmonization of jazz had only begun to make some sense to the public; Tristano was clearly onto something else. His more classical sensibility is apparent in the mannered phrasing and articulation of his solo, and the piece ends in a colossal bit of polyphony between Tristano and Bauer. Bebop seemed to have moved jazz into a new universe; Lennie Tristano found his own nearby galaxy to claim.

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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.