Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Lennie Tristano Personal Recordings 1946-1970: The contrafacts

(Mosaic/Dot Time MD6-272)

When it comes to repertoire, in jazz there's a common device known as "contrafacts", a name coined by James Patrick in 1975 to describe the replacement of the melody from a song by a different one while maintaining the underlying chord progression, as in, for instance, "How High the Moon" becoming "Ornithology" (see this Wiki list for more examples). Patrick's article (published on the Journal of Jazz Studies, vol. 2, no. 2) dealt with the compositions of Charlie Parker, who popularized this device, although it must be said that it was used in the Swing era: one example is "A Smo-o-o-oth One", based on "Love Is Just Around the Corner". Besides artistic considerations, note that this bit of trickery allowed the composer of the new melody to copyright the whole composition, and receive the appropriate royalties, even if the chord progression had been "borrowed".

Pianist Lennie Tristano and his disciples were avid users of already established chord progressions for their improvisations and compositions, and the previously unissued recordings included in the Mosaic/Dot Time set released earlier this year are no exception.

In the accompanying booklet, saxophonist Lenny Popkin, a disciple of Tristano, takes an impressionistic approach in his liner notes, in that he notes his impressions of the music, with hardly any detail on technical issues or context, and no reference to the harmonic frames the pianist and his musicians (the set features different groups) played on; that is, no contrafacts.

What I've done below is try and identify the original tunes these recordings are based on, either contrafacts or improvised solos without a previously composed melody (or "head"). There are three instances marked with a [*] where I'm not completely sure. Free improvisations or tunes where the original title has been kept are marked with a [—].

There may be mistakes (I've made this by ear), so please do comment if you disagree on anything. The toughest were the piano solos on CD2, where tracks #2-15 come from the same sessions that brought us the 1962 Atlantic LP The New Tristano.

For more info on the set, including discography and some audio clips, see this.


CD 1 
 1. Rhythm           [I Got Rhythm]
 2. Lennie's Song    [Just You, Just Me]
 3. Surrender        [I Surrender, Dear]
 4. Stream Line      [What Is This Thing Called Love?]
 5. Day and Night    [Night and Day]
 6. Rhapsody         [I Can't Get Started]
 7. Three for Tea    [Tea for Two]
 8. Streamin'        [I Can't Believe that You're in Love with Me]*
 9. Depend on Me     [You Can Depend on Me]
10. Just Fine        [Fine and Dandy]
11. September Rain   [September in the Rain]
12. Mystery          [What Is This Thing Called Love?]
13. Under Your Spell [Don't Blame Me]
14. Cosmology        [Indiana]
15. Restoration      [Indiana]

CD 2 
 1. Spectrum                     —
Dated 1952, "Spectrum" predates "Descent into the Maelstrom" as a multitrack experiment. It is also significant that this was recorded at Rudy Van Gelder's studio, early in his career as an engineer.
 2. New Pennies                 [Pennies in minor/C Minor Complex]
"Pennies" is "Pennies from Heaven". The beginning of Tristano's bass line after the intro is identical to the one on "C Minor Complex" from The New Tristano.
 3. Lennie's Blues              [Blues]
 4. Dusk                        [It Could Happen to You] 
 5. These Foolish Things         — 
 6. Tania's Dance               [My Melancholy Baby]* 
See also "Bud Line" (#2.11).
 7. Call it Love                [What Is This Thing Called Love?] 
 8. C Minor Fantasy             [Pennies in minor, C Minor Complex] 
 9. No Foolin'                  [Foolin' Myself] 
10. When Your Lover Has Gone     — 
11. Bud-Line                    [My Melancholy Baby]
#2.11, like "Tania's Dance" (#2.6), sounds like an outtake of "Scene and Variations: Carol, Bud, Tania" from The New Tristano.
12. Studio Time Medley          [What Is This Thing Called Love?/__] 
If this is indeed a medley—as in the booklet, although the CD listing reads "Studio Time Melody"—I don't know what the title(s) for the other tune(s) is(are). 
13. Palo Alto Days              [Thanks a Million] 
14. Foolish Again               [These Foolish Things] 
15. The Avenue                  [It Had to Be You] 
16. Thursday Suite: Sonnet      [What Is This Thing Called Love?] 
17. Thursday Suite: Swing Time  [Pennies in minor/C Minor Complex] 
18. Thursday Suite: Love Chords [Don't Blame Me]*
#2.18 is a hard one. The very beginning and elsewhere (3:20) sounds like a very slow and abstract "Don't Blame Me" and at the end he seems to quote/paraphrase "Stairway to the Stars" (3:30).

CD 3 
 1. Live Free             — 
 2. Sound-Lee            [Too Marvelous for Words] 
 3. Lennie's Changes     [I Never Knew]
In the liner notes, the chord changes of #3.3 and #3.5 are attributed to Tristano, but they hardly differ from "I Never Knew". Besides, the beginning is similar on both tracks, but at different tempos.
 4. Ice-Cream Konitz     [Perdido] 
 5. Fishin' Around       [I Never Knew] 
See #3.3.
 6. Band Excerpt         [I Never Knew] 
 7. You Go to My Head     — 
 8. Sax of a Kind        [Fine and Dandy] 

CD 4 
 1. Lennie's Lines       [Foolin' Myself] 
 2. My Melancholy Baby    — 
 3. Ocean's Deep         [If I Had You] 
 4. That Trading Feeling [That Old Feeling] 
 5. You Go to My Head     — 
 6. London Blues         [Limehouse Blues] 
 7. There Will Never Be Another You —
 8. Session Wave         [I Never Knew] 
 9. Movin' Along         [Indiana] 
10. Trio Lines           [You'd Be So Nice to Come Home to] 
11. Lennie's Place       [Out of Nowhere] 

CD 5 
 1. Duo Days             [Thanks a Million] 
 2. Dream Sequence       [You Stepped Out of a Dream] 
 3. Melancholy Up        [My Melancholy Baby] 
 4. Forever Lines        [You Can Depend On Me] 
 5. Friends              [Just Friends] 
 6. You Go to My Head     — 
 7. I Should Care         — 
 8. Lennie's Groove      [I Remember You] 

CD 6 
[1-7: free]                    — 
 8. Sonny's Variation         [Out of Nowhere] 
 9. Swingin' at the Half Note [Indiana] 
10. Lennie's Dream            [You Stepped Out of a Dream] 
11. Smilin' Groove            [When You're Smiling] 
12. Mine                      [Will you still be mine?] 
13. Hudson Street             [How Deep Is the Ocean?] 
14. How Deep Is the Ocean?     —

1 comment:

holycownyc said...

Thanks for the info.

The composer wasn't the only beeficiary of the new tune. Often the producer, label owner, or manager would make sure to get in on the action by being the tune's publisher, thereby owning 50% of the composition. Often, the publisher did not have to split his share with other companies, whereas the composer would split his portion with any co-writers.