Song:You Don't Know What Love Is
Album:The New Tristano
Pianist Lennie Tristano is one of the more enigmatic and unsung figures in jazz. He was there at the beginning of bebop but he branched off to do his own thing in the late 40s. The 1962 album The New Tristano was somewhat of a comeback album. But he didn't record enough as a leader to get the credit he probably deserved. He was born Mar. 19, 1919 in Chicago. He began playing piano at age three. Tristano was born with some eyesight but by age ten he was completely blind due to glaucoma. He studied at the American Conservatory of Music and started playing in bands in the early 40s. Tristano moved to New York in 1946 and he met Charlie Parker in 1947. He was pianist for Parker for a couple of years. Supposedly Parker liked Tristano because he played in his own style and didn't try to mimic Parker. Then in 1949, Tristano recorded Crosscurrent with sax players Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh. Though today the album is praised as innovative, it didn't catch on with jazz fans at the time. Tristano continued to work with Konitz and Marsh in the 50s. Tristano's attempts to record went nowhere until he signed with Atlantic Records in 1956. By this time, Tristano was experimenting with multi tracking and though today the 1956 album Tristano is considered to be a classic, the use of overdubbing was controversial at the time. After concentrating on teaching for a few years, Tristano returned with the 1962 album The New Tristano. This was solo piano and Atlantic made it known there was no overdubbing. The songs are all original compositions except for You Don't Know What Love Is. That song was written by Don Raye and Gene de Paul for the 1941 Abbott and Costello film Keep 'Em Flying. Carol Bruce sang it in the film. Billy Eckstine recorded it first with Earl Hines and then with his own band. Today it's a jazz standard that has been recorded by many jazz musicians. Tristano rarely recorded after this and he retired from performing in 1968. He continued to teach until his death from a heart attack on Nov. 18, 1978 at age 59. Today Lennie Tristano is hailed as a jazz innovator. But it took many years for jazz historians to acknowledge him and that's why Tristano is frequently overlooked. Here's Lennie Tristano performing You Don't Know What Love Is Copenhagen, Denmark Oct. 31, 1965. This concert is available on DVD.