Tristano Myths Refuted by Richard Tabnik

Tristano Myths Refuted
by Richard Tabnik

        The following is culled from some e-mail correspondence I had and I thought that some people might dig to see it... It is being posted again because few people saw it and many member [the jazz news group **]  requested it...-R.T.

1] *I always wondered why Tristano stopped performing and recording after like the late 50*s. His music was fascinating, and from what I*ve read about him he was pretty unique, too. Someone told me that he used to actually give lessons in the dark so that his students couldn*t see any better than he could.*

        There are a lot of myths about Lennie Tristano! Connie told me heonce apologized for not putting on the light when it got dark during the changing seasons, and promptly put it on. He wasn*t weird or strange. He was very deep. I*ve talked a lot about him w/ Connie and there are recorded interviews w/ him from local radio shows.  The one time I heard he wanted the lights out was when Mingus came to his studio and wanted to fight about some crap. LT. said, *O.K., if you turn out the lights so we can be equals*, and Mingus backed down...

2] *But what was the story on Tristano? Why did he stop  performing?*

         In one interview, I heard him say that he felt that the club scene
was dead; if you listen to a lot of the music that happened around then, one must agree. He also said that he got a rep for being difficult with promoters because he didn*t feel like wearing a tie or wanted to wear his bedroom slippers when he would play a concert. Even though this sounds like no big deal to us these days, it was shocking then. 

        Lennie Tristano performed in Berlin and at the Half Note in the
60*s and these have been released. He recorded at home and at his studio. Music  up through 1966 has been released on Jazz Records [Jazz Records, P.O.Box 30273, NY, NY 10011-0103] .

3] *I don*t think I*ve ever seen any of that stuff. Are they available on CD?* 

         Stuff from 65-66 has just been released on Jazz Records. It is
called *Note to Note*. *Descent Into the Maelstrom*  has some tracks from Paris. The lp/cd CONTINUITY is from this time, also.

4] *Funny, but as great as Konitz, Marsh, Tristano and those other guys were, you see very little follow up on their music. I know that Gary Foster was sort of a disciple, and he plays a lot on the west coast. But other than that, who? Nice to see you carrying the mantle, but as you say, it doesn*t get much recognition.*

        It is funny; Tristano influenced a lot of people through his music
and through his teaching. It*s kind of hip now to say you were influenced by Tristano but only if you had nothing to do with him... Currently, tenor saxophonist Mark Turner expresses his admiration for Lennie*s music [as well as Warne Marsh] and plays some of his lines. 

People also took parts of his innovations, like Shearing, Herbie
Hancock, and he never got the credit. Also, the so-called creative music scene isn*t really very open to innovation or feeling or individuality, now less than ever, in my opinion. Most of the crap that got laid on L.T. was, in reality, really true about everyone else:

        1. They called him cold and unemotional. How can someone who devotes their life to the purity of their art, who never sells out, be cold and unemotional? It*s people playing rehashed licks and styles,   and  cold technique who are cold and unemotional. Lennie*s incredible technique came from his stretching out from his feeling, not vice versa as most people try to do.

        2. Some people used to put down L.T. because they said that you  couldn*t teach jazz. Then they started making a lot of $ at it w/ books, schools, records, you name it and the one person who could have written a GREAT book didn*t because he felt that everyone is a individual and has to learn their own way, not with a method! Who*s got that kind of integrity?

        3. People say it*s not important music, didn*t have any influence. Wynton Marsalis told a high school student who was studying with me at the time that it was  too advanced  for her to listen to when she had been into it for four years! All I know is that I hear some of the greatest music of all time when I hear Lennie and every note is beautiful. That is really amazing to me and has been true for me for over 25 years and continues throughout my life..

5] *I sort of hear a little of Tristano in Shearing. But Hancock? I don*t think I hear that.*

        Shearing lifted *locked hands chords* from Tristano, but Lennie
never gets the credit. They were close friends when GS arrived from 
England; L.T. even helped him get established, but GS shut the door on him.  L.T. felt it was because GS felt that the association would hurt him professionally.  Listen to Miles Smiles. Herbie really dug L.T.*s line, sound, and chords. Once when L.T. and CC went to the Vanguard to hear Herbie, cool Herbie almost fell all over himself coming over to talk to LT. Also dig Red Garland's solo on Oleo w/ Miles quintet...sounds like L.T.*s *Line Up*. Bill Evans said he was influenced, not directly from L.T.,  but by Lee and Warne;  but that*s sort of  deceptive because it all came from LT...

6] *Is [drummer] Carol Tristano any relation to Lennie?*

         Carol is Lennie*s daughter and is currently directing Jazz
Records, the company that L.T. started, as well as being an important partof New Artists Records, the co. that I*m in with Connie Crothers, Lenny Popkin, Liz Gorrill, and others. Have you heard them? Lennie really helped some of the greatest individuals in music develop and express themselves.

7] *I have never heard of Popkin or Gorrill. I have heard vaguely of Crothers - but know nothing of her.*

        Connie Crothers and Liz Gorrill are, in my opinion, two  of the
greatest pianists of all time. Lenny Popkin is, in my opinion, one of the
greatest [tenor] saxophonists of  all time. Their recordings are available on New Artists Records and Jazz Records. CC also has one on Inner City or Steeplechase  and LP has one on Choice. All are available through North County Dist. [Cadence magazine.]

8] *Funny, I never pictured Tristano having a daughter. Did he have any other children?*

        L.T. was a human being. He had children. On *The New Tristano*, the suite, *Scene and Variations*, is named for three of his children, Carol, Tania, and Bud. 

9] *Interesting that she plays drums, because he supposedly always kept drums in a very secondary role in the groups that he formed.*

        That really is another myth. Listen to *Descent Into the
Maelstrom*. He recorded with Roy Haynes! Drummer Nick Stabulus really wails! He loved sessioning with Elvin Jones and gigged with him, stopping only because Elvin became John Coltrane*s drummer. He did a lot of sessions w/ Max Roach, whom he also worked with on the *Bands for Bonds* recordings, and  Kenny Clarke. At the Half Note gig, L.T. played with Philly Joe Jones, Billy Higgins, Arthur Taylor, and Paul Motian. 

         Currently, check out Roger Mancuso, who gigged as well as studied w/ Tristano,  on *Deep Into the Center*, a duo w/. CC and RM on New Artists Records, also *Life At The Core*, a quartet w/ me, Andy Fite, g, RM drums, and Calvin Hill, bass.

        L.T. and RM recorded but this hasn*t been released yet. Roger is astounding. No one is doing the things he does effortlessly on the drums: amazing time combinations, baffling tempo mixtures, sort of a polytempo, and incredible energy, swing, and feeling at any level of volume. 

        Carol is an amazing drummer; warm, swinging,  subtle, intuitive. I have had the joyous privilege of playing with her from about the middle '80's to the middle '90's. We also recorded a CD, *In the Moment*, on New Artists Records.  She makes time flow like a river and the image I often get is like a spaceship that can go anywhere - in time, space or dimensions - that*s so connected to my feeling that it all just happens. Carol is truly incredible.

        I am so thrilled to have the chance to play with two such unique
and original drummers. 

        Jazz Critic Art Lange also refuted the Tristano-drummer myth in a wonderful article in the January 1999 issue of Coda Magazine.

10]     I talked with Connie Crothers tonight and wanted to write to you and clear up something   and let you know what she said.

        L.T. never said that the reason he stopped performing had anything to do with his being blind. In fact, in the 40*s he used to walk all over NYC and, as a teenager in Chicago, used to go hang out in the South side by himself to dig jazz. Sometimes he*d be the only white person around and just dug hanging out there. The scene in NYC became very violent and dangerous @ the 60*s; that*s why he stopped walking around, not because of his blindness.

        He tried to work in the early 60*s! He went on tour w/Lee and Warne and dug it but Lee quit and no one wanted the band. He tried to get gigs as a solo pianist but, at that time, they said that solo wasn*t enough. He tried to get a gig, I think at the Half Note, w/ Lenny Popkin on tenor saxophone., but was refused. They wanted Warne [now they wanted Warne!] who had moved to LA. The club owners and promoters turned their backs on him, not vice versa.

        L.T. didn*t dig bullsh*t or hostility and he wouldn*t hold still
for it. He once told Connie that he could deal with anything from a person; *I just can*t cope with hostility.*

        The jazz scene at large started putting him down in the early-mid
60*s. Connie told me about how people would really express some far-out hostility against L.T. at her, like,  he was some evil genius, and crap like that. 

        He was so into performing that in the early 60*s he wanted his own jazz club, a sweet, cool scene to play at as well as featuring  others. The first thing he did was go out and buy a completely rebuilt beautiful Steinway grand piano! Isn*t that wild, that was his priority! How many clubs can say that?

        He went looking at places around the time of the World*s Fair in NY so rents were really high and he got discouraged. He would*ve put his own $ and effort into it but the $ was too much...

        Connie says she never heard him complain. Once when she was
listening to him play at the Half Note, she saw that he didn*t seem happy when he came off stage. She asked him why and he simply said, *I*m tired of playing in bars.* I can really dig that! It*s really something spending your life as background for the sale of alcohol.

        L.T. was *a union man*, he was into the musician*s union, although he didn*t agree with everything they did. But he wanted a union contract and in the '60*s, this wasn*t happening! The record co., East Wind, became a Union signatory in order to enable them to  release L.T.*s *Descent Into the Maelstrom*!

        He was also selective about how he worked and recorded. Unlike many other musicians to this day, he wanted to perform and record in a representative setting, in other words, he wanted to play with people that he played with and stretched out with and developed with and had rapport with...not some A+R or producer bullsh*t!

        George Wein wanted him to play at Newport Jazz Festival. L.T.
wanted to use a band w/ Lee, Warne, Niels Henning Orsted Pederson, and Billy Higgins. He also wanted $ so that he could pay them for some rehearsals but G.W. wouldn*t. G.W. also advertised L.T.*s gig BEFORE the contract was signed. And he did it in a f*cked-up way: *Lennie Tristano will prove to the world that he can still play great* or some crap like that. So L.T. didn*t do the gig and he actually ran an ad at his own expense in the Village Voice saying that he wasn*t going to be there and why.

        He started becoming ill in the late 60*s; by the middle 70*s, he
was incapacitated with his illness. He went on to produce concerts for
other musicians: Connie Crothers, Liz Gorrill, and Sal Mosca in public
concert. In his own home, he featured the people later featured on the
Lennie Tristano Memorial Concert record on Jazz Records ..including Lenny Popkin, Fran Canisius, Nomi Rosen, Virg Dzurinko, Larry Meyers, Lloyd Lifton, Peter Scattaretico, Stan Fortuna.

        Lennie Tristano NEVER gave blindness as a reason and it never got in his way. He loved wandering the streets of NYC and loved being on tour. 

        I hope you dig all this and I also want to know if you*re
interested in getting a copy of some of L.T.*s radio interviews.
 *The Jazz Musician*s function is to feel*  -Lennie Tristano
For  catalogs, write:
Jazz Records,
 POBox 30273,
 NY, NY 10011-0103

New Artists Records
POBox 549
NY, NY 10018

order from your local record store or order direct from
North Country Dist, Cadence Bldg., Redwood, NY 13679 tel.[315]287-2852 fax:-2860
Best wishes for a happy life in a peaceful world.
        Richard Tabnik []
        *The Jazz Musician*s function is to feel.*-Lennie Tristano

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