Many jazz fans have never heard of pianist Lennie Tristano. I would imagine a great many jazz musicians, however, would immediately recognize the name. Tristano was known more as a teacher than a performer, and he was known for helping other musicians “get to their individuality on their instruments, expressing their own personal sound and creative line.” He got his start in Chicago in the ’40s, made a huge impact on the local jazz scene, and eventually moved to NYC where he maintained a studio on East 32nd Street.
Dot Time Records, known for uncovering lost and previously unreleased material and releasing it on exceptionally quiet vinyl pressings, has released this LP of Lennie Tristano and his recordings of duos with other musicians who shared his love for learning music over the years. These recordings include duets with tenor sax player Lenny Popkin, pianist Connie Crothers and drummer Roger Mancuso. The Duos Sessions, in essence, is a chronicle of that lifelong conversation he’s had with other musicians about the language of jazz.
On its face, The Duos Sessions is about Lennie Tristano and his unique style on the keyboards. He reminds me of Fred Hersch, or should I say that Hersch reminds me of Lennie Tristano–both pianists enjoy coming at you from unexpected directions to deliver sweet melodies that are still full of tension and wit. These performances are so widely varied, which speaks to Tristano’s skills as a teacher because he seems to know it all. He’s heard it before, he can use it as a launching pad, and he’s going to take his friends with him.
I’ve reviewed these Dot Time Records reissues a few times now, and it never occurred to me that they were such a bargain. While the artwork and graphics seem a little minimalist–these are days of minimalism, so it’s all right–I always worked them into the rotation based on their merit. But I looked up Lennie Tristano on the Dot Time website and The Duos Sessions is just $15.99. I almost never bring up the price of the music I review, perhaps because I tire of telling people about $50 LPs, but c’mon. It’s time to start exploring their catalog, and you can start right here.