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Lennie Tristano Quintet 1964 on film

TristanoIn lieu of the proverbial time machine that could take us back to 52nd Street circa 1950, or the Plugged Nickel circa 1968, there’s always YouTube. Recently videos of the Lennie Tristano Quintet performing Subconscious-Lee, 317 E. 32nd St., and Background Music at New York City’s Half Note club in 1964 have been posted. This was–if I’m not mistaken–one of the last times that alto saxophonist Lee Konitz performed with Tristano, and tenor great Warne Marsh was there as well. Judging from the narrator’s rather square-ish, let-us-venture-into-the-Wild-Existential-Kingdom-of-jazz remarks, these clips apparently come from sort of TV show about religion. The music is amazing; some of the Half Note performances were eventually released on LP and CD by the Tristano family’s Jazz label. For a compelling analysis of the Tristano/Konitz/Marsh axis, check out jazz writer Larry Kart’s essay in his book Jazz In Search of Itself.

P.S. Doug Ramsey has posted some background on the Half Note at Rifftides. And Allen Lowe has hipped me to what sounds like a very promising new biography of this visionary pianist.

David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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