Selection: C Minor Complex (5:56)
Lennie Tristano – unaccompanied solo piano, recording engineer, Tristano recorded NYC 1962
Encore! The previous post on Tristano had me wanting for more, though there is precious little on disc. Six years after the controversial Atlantic Tristano recording, which employed speeded up tapes for the rhythm section (allegedly) Tristano was back, this time for the record with a prominent disclaimer:
Listening to C Minor Complex, and some of the Bach-fugue type passages with their torrential hailstorm of 1/32 notes (I reckon may be even some 1/64 notes?), you can understand why. Some people struggle to pat their head and rub their tummy simultaneously .Tristano plays impossibly fast with some fingers while playing a walking bass scale simultaneously with other fingers, possibly on the same hand. Even block-chords. His level of mechanical skill is fearsome but backed up by extraordinary intense melodic and harmonic invention, which leaves me exhausted after listing. Not a case of asking “where’s the rhythm section?” There – in his left hand. “Solo piano” is too small a word to describe what is going on.
Vinyl: Atlantic 590017 – 1968 UK reissue – Philips UK pressing – mono – 140gm
The cover I judged a budget label reissue – trick-photography, orbiting molecules through the colour spectrum – “popular science” – much beloved for avoiding the cost of models and photographers. Credited to one Malcolm Walker, seemingly house designer for a number of British jazz labels of the Sixties and Seventies, including Esquire, Spotlite and Black Lion – none of which scale the heights of Reid Miles or Don Schlitten. US 1962 original shown right, much nicer.
Cheapskate Alert! The vinyl is from a jazz reissue series by Polydor I would normally given a wide berth, but it turns out to be a respectable pressing by Philips, a reasonably good vintage for vinyl – 1968, and recorded by Tristano himself in his home studio, so it is what it is.
Knowing nothing, the piano seems to me a very easy instrument to mic badly, and difficult instrument to mic well. When its done right and played on a revealing system which retrieves all the attack and decay, and resonance, it is a beautiful absorbing sound. Irrespective of his talent as a pianist, how well he understood the engineering side of recording for vinyl I hesitate to say. Difficulty of being your own recording engineer must be that you must, inevitably, focus on whether the you played the right notes on that take. The sound? It’s a piano isn’t it?
Another “budget choice” which turns out not too bad an edition. Which is good, because “budget editions” seem to be all I am taking home from auctions at present, along with good old VG+.
There has been a run of “top copies” of late, and the minute anything desirable turns up with the letters “NM” in the description, the water turns blood red, feeding frenzy. My impression is that collectables continue to rise in price as the available pool of records shrinks and the number of collectors grows world-wide, but more significantly, the premium on “near mint condition” is rising faster still further out of reach.
I am reminded of a conversation with my hairdresser recently, remarking on how a figure in the public eye – let’s be frank, a politician – had various dalliances come to light in the tabloid press. Manifestly he was flawed. In what I thought an astute observation, he responded: well at least he’s normal. I thought, that’s right. Our vinyl records may be flawed, a few clicks and pops, the odd light scratch, but at least they are normal. I resolved to be more tolerant of flaws: it’s a lot cheaper than chasing perfection. It’s vinyl, after all. And who among us collectors can justifiably be described as “near mint“?