Lennie Tristano: The New Tristano (1962) Atlantic re


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 New Tristano Atlantic 1962 coverThe 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?



Collectors Corner

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.

NM Hubbard Capture

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“?


10 thoughts on “Lennie Tristano: The New Tristano (1962) Atlantic re

  1. Here I am, weeks later, finally getting to this post on your fantastic blog. Only to realize that I acquired the domestic (US) pressing of “The New Tristano” just about the time you were posting this! Mine is a solid VG+ in both cover and vinyl and from a local shop that hosts monthly auctions. I tend to clean them out of their Jazz for pretty reasonable prices. I have yet to give this a spin, as I am embroiled in a move, but I appreciated your review and am looking forward to listening.

    One issue I take with your review is that regarding the reissue cover. I have to say, that I indeed prefer the reissue cover. I mean, have you SEEN Lennie Tristano? Not exactly easy on the eyes, is he?

    All the best, from the colonies.

  2. An interesting choice. I have what I think is an original Atlantic mono of this and it’s an LP I have barely explored, really. I keep trying but sometimes find Tristano rather uninvolving — which is strange, really, because I ought to like his cool, cerebral approach. I shall try (with more concerted effort) over the weekend. THis will be my mission for Saturday morning.

    I also like that Atlantic Specials series from the 1960s — I have a few of them. The Tristano LINES (I think it’s called) is good. It has the overdubbed stuff on one side and the 1955 Confucious Room gig with Konitz on the other.

    And on the subject of Konitz, I recently found a copy of his trio recording MOTION, which is absolutely marvellous. Spare, intense, lyrical, astoundingly inventive.

    • Coincidentally I just acquired an upgrade copy of the Atlantic US original – as yours. Interestingly I was chatting to the jazz buyer in-store and he echoed your opinion, that he found Tristano “sterile” and “uninvolving”. As often the case, what turns some people off is what turns others on – I like his cerebral approach, in the same way I like Phineus Newborn, who was put down by critics as being a “too clever” technician. Sounds like a compliment to me.

      • I was playing this again at the w/e and enjoyed it much more than i remembered doing in the past. A couple of things struck me, however. I wonder whether the charges of LT being ‘uninvolving’ are something to do with the actual sound of the piano? You know how with Monk much of the pleasure resides in the evident pleasure Monk derives from the _sound_ of the piano — the attack and decay of notes, the clusters of half-tones and resonances and so on?

        This doesn’t seem to be what interests LT at all and there is something very ‘same-y’ about the sound of the piano — little overall variation in its tone or nuances. Perhaps this is exactly what he wanted, I’m not sure, or perhaps it arises from LT engineering the record himself…. But listening to LT solo and then comparing this with solo Monk was very instructive. It isn’t just that they are very different pianists — they _use_ the piano differently.

  3. I laughed out loud for a minute at your cover there, LJC. I think of myself as very tolerant of flaws. I’ve got a nice original copy of Archie Shepp’s “Live in San Francisco” that only cost a few dollars and except for one absolutely crazy scratch that sounds quite loud but does not skip, it is pristine. My guess is that the previous owner cared for it well but had an unfortunate accident, and other than that one time the scratch pops loudly, the record is great. And I can live with that. Reminds me of my mortality. So good for you!

  4. The “disclaimer” on this re-issue repeats what is stated in the original Atlantic 1357 liner notes – boldly adding that the music was recorded in NYC in 1962. Which is wrong but shouldn’t detract from the credibilty of the other statement (i.e. the recordings were made without electronic assistance). According to more recent information (see Mosaic edition a.o.), these recordings were made in 1960 and 1961.

    • Forgive my ignorance, but what is “Mosaic edition a.o.”? I am relatively new to Jazz collecting and am in search of all the sources that I can find. Was this recorded in NYC at least? Any idea of the studio?

      • I was referring to “The Complete Atlantic Recordings of Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz & Warne Marsh” issued by Mosaic Records in 1997 on both vinyl and CD. Mosaic always includes reliable discographical data. The “New Tristano” sessions were recorded in Tristano’s home studio, NYC, 1960-61.

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