As of last Friday May 25th, I am officially a Seattle resident for the first time since 2004. I’m so happy to be back and can’t wait to start playing lots of great music with all the amazing musicians here.
So far I’m having a blast! Trekked out to the Gorge on Saturday to see my friends in tUnE-yArDs tear it up in front of a very enthusiastic Sasquatch audience. Also got to enjoy a mind-blowing performance by the Legendary Roots Crew from side-stage. Questlove is my hero! Then on Sunday night I played my first Seattle gig with Wayne Horvitz’s conduction band at the Royal Room.
Spread the word Seattle people, I’m ready to dive in and start doing some good work. Recently revamped the teaching page on my website. I’ll be available to teach from my new home in the Roosevelt neighborhood as well as a little bit at the Gallery 1412 near Capital Hill. Also, I’ll be curating the Racer Session on Sunday June 17th (Father’s Day) at 8pm sharp. More info to come.
I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You is not a Tristano original, but is nonetheless very connected to Tristano’s recorded legacy. “Ghost of a Chance” has been recorded countless times by many of the greats including Bing Crosby (who co-authored the lyrics), Lester Young, Frank Sinatra, etc… As far as I can tell there are only three recordings of Lennie playing this song:
1) Solo on September 23rd 1947 for the Victor Label
2) With Lee Konitz at the Confucius Restaurant on June 11th, 1955
3) Solo in Copenhagen on October 31st 1965.
I love each version, but have been really digging the early solo version lately.
Thanks for following along on The Seven Days of Lennie. If any of you will be in Seattle on November 4th and 5th, I’ll be performing all of these compositions (and more) with my Quintet at the Gallery 1412 and Egan’s Ballard Jam House respectively. For more details go here.
We’re getting so close! Lennie’s Pennies is definitely the most difficult Tristano composition I’ve learned thus far. The tune is based on “Pennies From Heaven” but altered to be in minor. If you haven’t already do yourself a favor and check out Bing Crosby’s version (skip forward to 3 minutes in). “Pennies” has one of the greatest verses I’ve ever heard.
Lennie’s line is difficult to learn as well as very difficult to play (measures 27-28 don’t lay too well on the alto sax). The harmony in the 28th bar (5th to last) always eluded me. It’s one of the most distinct and mysterious moments in the changes. Even though they drop a beat early on, I love the intensity of this live recording with Warne and Gary Foster in 1971 at the Ice House.
Transcription: Lennie’s Pennies
April is Tristano’s line based on the standard “I’ll Remember April” which I talked about in a previous post. My transcription is mostly based on the performance from the Half Note in 1959 with Lee and Warne. If you haven’t realized yet I’m a big Half Note fan!
The crazy rhythmic stuff at 36 seconds took me days to figure out, and was pretty confusing to write out. Other great recordings of April include two versions from the 1955 Confucius Restaurant date with Lennie and Lee, and the 1952 Quintet performance in Toronto with some very noticeable differences.
Wow. While some have theorized that this tune is inspired by “You Can Depend On Me,” Lennie’s long-time student Connie Crothers asserts that it is an original chord progression by Tristano. In any case it’s a very unusual and challenging piece of music. I love the restraint and purity of sound achieved on the original recording from the 1949 Capitol sextet recordings with Lennie, Lee, Warne, and Billy Bauer.
BONUS: Warne Marsh’s handwritten chart for the tenor part
Lennie-Bird (based on How High The Moon) is the most recent Tristano composition I’ve added to the repertoire. I’ve never really been a huge fan of playing How High The Moon (although I can’t help loving this version). But hearing Lennie’s line totally shed new light on it for me. My favorite version is from the Half Note with Lee and Warne in 1959. This is a somewhat insane challenge for horn players as there is very little opportunity to breath. I love the tasteful places where Lee and Warne stop to breath.
Transcription: Lennie Bird
All About You is a Lennie line based on the changes to the great standard “How About You?” If you haven’t heard Judy Garland singing it you must, her version gives me goosebumps every time!
“All About You” is a line that saxophonist Warne Marsh played many times. Here’s a version from the 1982 North Sea Jazz Festival with Warne and pianist Sal Mosca. The way Mosca reharmonizes it is CRAZY…it almost sounds like a Monk tune.
And the transcription: All About You