Personalities | Lennie Tristano | Forties | Jazz & Blues

(Piano, 1919–78)

Lennie Tristano began his career as a performer in promising style in his native Chicago, but later focused much of his time and creative energy on teaching his own musical ideas. He was born weak-sighted and was blind from the age of 10. He gathered a group of important acolytes around him during the late 1940s in New York, including saxophonists Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh and guitarist Billy Bauer, and ran a school of jazz in the city from 1951–56.

He performed and recorded intermittently from the mid-1950s, but continued to teach individual pupils. His musical concept offered an alternative to the prevailing bop orthodoxy of the day, and demanded rigorous discipline and sensitivity to complex nuances of time and tonality. He was an early explorer both of free jazz and of creating multitracked recordings by overdubbing. His own music never found a wide audience and much of it was only released posthumously, but his students ensured that his influence was a significant one.

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues, founding editor Howard Mandel


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