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 Sextet: “Intuition” (1947-1951, Chronological Jazz Classics, 2003 [originally recorded May 16, 1949])

Free jazz begins here. Ten years before Ornette Coleman, Tristano and company brought out a recorded track with no predetermined anything. No chord changes, no melody, no rhythm or even tempo (the drummer on the session, Denzil Best, sits the tune out entirely). The end result, originally released on Crosscurrents, is an undeniably weird and amorphous piece that still manages to find an irregular sort of shape as the players interact and develop melodic fragments in this and that direction. It was still an experiment, rather than the new manifesto that Coleman and others would create—but a bold groundbreaking nonetheless.

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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.