b. Leonard Popkin, 30 May 1941, New York City, New York, USA. A very good if undervalued tenor saxophonist Popkin collaborated in 1979 with Connie Crothers in producing the Lennie Tristano Memorial Concert at New York’s Town Hall. During the 80s and on through into the 90s he co-led a quartet with Crothers. Despite its manifold qualities, the fame of this extremely attractive band did not spread far beyond the eastern seaboard. Created in large part to perpetuate the music of Lennie Tristano, in its earlier form the group was rounded out by bass player Cameron Brown, who was succeeded by Rich Califano, and drummer Carol Tristano, daughter of Lennie.
In the Tristano setting, Popkin shows himself to be a coolly studious player in the Warne Marsh tradition. Elsewhere, he displays a somewhat warmer touch on ballads whereon his approach is seemingly effortless. He has also worked with alto saxophonist Richard Tabnik, another follower of the Tristano line in jazz. Popkin’s name is far less well known than a player of this quality deserves. This relative and thoroughly undeserved anonymity is not helped by the fact that much of his recorded work has been made for New Artists Records, a hard-to-find label founded in the late 70s by followers of Tristano.