Jazz Goggles: Descent into the Maelstrom

Comprised of live performances, overdubs and rehearsals from 1952-1966, Lennie Tristano's Descent into the Maelstrom is a free-form journey through the expansive musical mind of one of the greatest in jazz.

“Paris: Dream” is an airy vamp that races to and from tonality, which like most of the record sees Lennie holding the groove all on his own. Once reaching the somewhat more linear “Paris: Image” his left hand launches into an upbeat stroll, leaving the right to sort through endless melodic possibilities. The man keeps everything so tight (read: complimentary) and loose (read: improvisational) that it may not register on first listen that he's doing it solo.

What makes this record so special is the amount of Lennie on it, specifically its layered approach. The title track being most notably so, where cascading piano overdubs form a dark introduction to a record of misfits and jams. “Ju-Ju” places two of Lennie's piano takes on top of each other, morphing from a chord-melody division to two solos to fighting for space – with the rhythm section barely hanging on. In his home studio in New York City Lennie toiled over experiments in tape manipulation – ground quite untrodden in 1953.

Even though he may be one of the lesser known blind men in music, his influence and talent are no secret to any fan of the genre. In that picture at the top of the post he's comping for Charlie Parker, which should give all newcomers reason to take notice. It's not an easy listen, but definitely a rewarding one.

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