Charles Ives wrote his forbidding mashups of genre without expecting his works to be performed. Conlon Nancarrow created furious cascades of sound by punching holes in player-piano rolls. When jazz was popular, Lennie Tristano filled a similar role as a hermetic genius and aloof experimentalist. Ives sold insurance to support his composing; Tristano was the first jazz innovator to make a living teaching instead of gigging. Ives, Nancarrow, Tristano: their reach only seems to grow over time. Tristano came from jazz but he stayed apart from jazz.
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This one is from my time at New England Conservatory. NEC has a lot of unique coursework made possible by the large jazz department and the experimental nature of the curriculum. A significant part of the study in this class involved creating transcriptions for analysis and study.
Tristano, for those unfamiliar, was a blind pianist usually put in the Bebop, Post Bop, or Cool schools of playing. He is recognized for his mathematical approach to improvisation, and that of his most celebrated students Lee Kontiz, Warne Marsh, Bille Bauer , who all had their own takes on his ideas.
This solo gives us two choruses packed with detail. He plays a line or arpeggio a half-step above the chord of the moment and then slips down to the chord to resolve. They are very dissonant and grab your ear immediately. One other element worthy of mention would be the line starting at measure This triplet figure has a quirky feel to it. Here, Tristano uses the same rhythmic language, but into 2 and 4 instead, giving it a loping, exaggerated quality.
Maybe you can take on that challenge? Adam Roberts Music. Skip to content. Home Biography Transcriptions.
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Tristano at 100
Lennie Tristano Plays “All the Things You Are”
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