The first 25 recordings ever to have appeared under Lennie Tristano's name are presented in chronological sequence on this deluxe double-disc anthology released in 1998 by the Indigo label. No wind instruments are heard on this compilation. Tracks one through four are piano solos recorded in Chicago at some point in 1945 or 1946. Tristano's individuality is evident in the music itself as well as in the song titles, for although this album's track listing doesn't reveal it, "Yesterdays" became "Glad Am I," "What Is This Thing Called Love?" was rechristened "This Is Called Love" and "Don't Blame Me" was humorously shortened to "Blame Me." Two V-Disc selections from October 14, 1946 with guitarist Billy Bauer and bassist Leonard Gaskin lead into the strikingly productive session of October 8, 1946. From here on out (disc one: cut seven through to the end of disc two) what you get are the complete Keynote recordings of the Lennie Tristano Trio, featuring guitarist Bauer and bassists Clyde Lombardi and Bob Leininger. It's a cornucopia of alternate takes, including three versions of "Out on a Limb" (based in the chord progressions of "You Can Depend on Me"); three of "I Surrender Dear" and no less than six renderings of Dizzy Gillespie's "Interlude," soon to be known worldwide as "Night in Tunisia." The listener might well wish to approach the six Interludes as one 18-minute entity cleverly composed of cyclic choruses. As this music was recorded on 78 rpm records, a time limit of roughly three and a half minutes was imposed upon these ambitious improvisers, who in fact sound very reluctant to stop playing at the end of the "Untitled Blues." As for the successive multiple takes, there's a lot to be said for this kind of a listening experience, as one may savor the flavor of things done similarly yet differently so many times in sequence. Special honors should go to Keynote's creator and producer Harry Lim (these were to be the last entries in his stunning catalog of approximately 343 sides, involving some 200 jazz musicians, recorded between March 1941 and May 1947) and Tristano's critical ally Barry Ulanov, a vigorous supporter of modern music who suddenly found himself immortalized by the catchy title "Coolin' Off with Ulanov."
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