Studio: Storyville Films 26060 (Distr. by Naxos)
Video: 4:3 full screen, B&W
Audio: DD 5.1 or DD stereo
Length: 41 min.
This is one of a somewhat similar series of jazz videos to the Jazz Icons series. In this case the videotape came from Danmarks Radio/TV International and the Tristano estate. The concert took place in the Concert Hall of the famous Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. The included note booklet covers all the different DVDs, not just this one.
Lennie Tristano was blind from early childhood and became a fan of Art Tatum. He studied at the American Conservatory of Music and often used counterpoint in his cool, very technical improvisations which reflect a knowledge and respect for modern composers such as Stravinsky and Prokofiev. He performed with bebop players such as Charlie Parker. His use of dissonances was sometimes so strong as to get him credited as a pioneer in what was later to be called free jazz.
Tristano sits at the piano as straight-backed and formal as a classical pianist, but extremely close to the keyboard, seeming not to have room to move his arms freely. His appearance reminded me of George Gershwin. The camera captures his unusual keyboard technique in close up. It is complex and cool – some detractors feel much too cool for their tastes. However, it is just a different sort of emotionality. One cannot say Stravinsky’s music has no emotion, for example. Most of the nine tracks stay fairly tonal, but the key signatures and harmonic transformations of the themes go places one never hears with other jazz pianists. Tristano seems to know exactly where every note should go, even when the harmonization and ornamentation is getting miles away from the original melody of the tune. Truly a fascinating video to watch, especially for pianists of all sorts.
TrackList: Darn That Dream, Lullaby of the Leaves, Expressions, Yojohn u Don’t Know What Love Is, Tivoli Gardens Swing, Ghost of a Chance, It’s You or No One, Imagination, Tangerine.
– John Henry