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DO THE MATH: Lennie Tristano/Barack Obama

Posted: Sat Nov 13, 2010 3:16 am
by jostber
A long article from the Do The Math blog by Ethan Iverson. Some references to the Shim book.

A bit of ranting at the beginning, but it's getting better as it goes on: ... stano.html

Re: DO THE MATH: Lennie Tristano/Barack Obama

Posted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 12:17 pm
by Connie Crothers
I think Ethan Iverson's blog essay about Lennie is full of descriptions about Lennie that continue the mythological character called "Lennie Tristano," which doesn't represent the Lennie Tristano that I and other close close friends and associates knew. I'll just deal with one facet of this myth: the drummer myth, in particular the idea Lennie didn't want black drummers. I've listed black drummers who Lennie worked with:
Denzil Best--Capitol, "Crosscurrents"--For this important ground-breaking record on a major label, Lennie hired Denzil Best.
Roy Haynes--Roy Haynes was hired by Lennie to record for his own label--Jazz Records--for what turned out to be the only release from this record company during Lennie's lifetime (this record company now exists under the auspices of The Lennie Tristano Jazz Foundation)--“Pastime, “JuJu,” another groundbreaking recording, Lennie overdubbing complex counterpoint lines over the rhythm section track. Roy Haynes performed often with Lennie's band at the Half Note, and also went on tour with Lennie's band, performing in Canada and Boston.
Max Roach--Max Roach, a close friend in the 1950s, went to Lennie's studio night after night and played all-night sessions with Lennie, mostly duets. I heard about these sessions from both of them, described in the same way. They both valued the conversation as much as the music. Lennie would have wanted to perform with Max, but Max had his own band. Given that neither one was thinking at that time of forming a band together, it is especially remarkable that Max wanted to spend so much time playing with Lennie. Everyone knows how outspoken Max was about race matters. Also, Max was equally outspoken and active about advancing the artistic role and presence of the drums in the band. He would never have held still for a musician who wanted to limit him. He only spoke to me with great warmth, reminiscing about those sessions. Coming from that time, and the friendship that those two had in those years, Max recorded an amazing solo track for the Lennie Tristano Memorial album.
Kenny Clark--One of Lennie's favorite drummers was Kenny Clark. Kenny came over to Lennie's studio also. We have the recording of Lennie, Bird and Kenny on phonebook with brushes. Kenny reminisced to me with enthusiasm about going over to Lennie's studio to play. During the brief time when Lennie was a producer for Atlantic, he hired Kenny to be in the rhythm section with Oscar Pettiford (what a rhythm section!) for Lee and Warne.
Art Taylor--Kenny was Lennie’s first choice for his first Atlantic recording, live from the Confucious restaurant. When Kenny couldn't be there for the recording date, Lennie hired another black drummer--Art Taylor. This date was the very first stereo recording ever, a historic date. Atlantic brought their equipment into the restaurant and recorded quite a bit of material, which, except for the few tracks which were included in the original release, were released at a later date.
Elvin Jones--Lennie may have been the first musician to hire Elvin Jones when he came to New York City, or, if not the first, one of the very first. He formed a trio with Elvin and Charles Mingus and they went on tour to Boston.
Billy Higgins--Lennie’s last performance would have been in George Wein's festival (Newport, Kool, I don't remember which one it was then), with Lee Konitz. For his rhythm section Lennie wanted Billy Higgins, with Neils-Henning Osted-Pedersen (how about that rhythm section?!). Lennie and George Wein could not agree on the contract, so this performance didn't happen.
In an interview with Franco Fayenz, Lennie listed favorite black drummers: Kenny Clark, Philly Joe Jones, Jo Jones, Elvin Jones, Max Roach. Do these drummers fit the Tristano drummers myth?
Anyone, looking at this list of drummers, might agree that none of them would be able to accept the kinds of limitations that are attributed to Lennie's attitude about drummers. I think it is noteworthy that Lennie hired great black drummers for so many of his most important record dates and engagements. An important drummer who is not black, but deserves a mention here is the last drummer in Lennie's band, Roger Mancuso. He studied with Lennie and performed with the band in the 1960s. (He is the drummer in my quartet.) Roger gets really angry about the "Lennie Tristano drummer myth." Who would know better than Roger? He both worked with and studied with Lennie. All Lennie wanted from Roger was to turn it loose. He loved and encouraged Roger's originality and fire.

I would have wanted to post this on Ethan Iverson's blog, but couldn't figure out how to do it.

One last word, more general. Why does Lennie get criticized so incessantly? On and on, through the years. Other musicians don't. Why Lennie? Actually, Lennie was one of the rare ones--a great musician who was also a great person, one of the few musicians who spent a lot of his time boosting the musical performing lives of other musicians. He also gave the art of jazz so much. Doesn't he deserve better treatment than what he gets from the individuals who continue this poorly conceived myth?

Re: DO THE MATH: Lennie Tristano/Barack Obama

Posted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 12:21 am
by Connie Crothers
Add (another black drummer):
Connie Kay. Lennie was on tour in Europe with other pianists. In Berlin, as they were setting up for the evening's performance, Connie Kay spontaneously sat in with Lennie. Lennie loved it so much, he asked Connie to join him in his set. The set was filmed and can be viewed on youtube.

Re: DO THE MATH: Lennie Tristano/Barack Obama

Posted: Mon Sep 23, 2013 10:48 pm
by swera
Wow (named after the Lennie Tristano tune) is a band which hails from Gothenburg, Sweden. In tribute to Lennie the CD is called “In The Vicinity of 317 East 32nd Streetâ€.