Racer Sessions

Sundays, 8-10pm at Cafe Racer in Seattle, WA

Sam Hylton - October 21, 2012


Before I get to the details, I would like to mention that this is my first curation at the Racer Sessions, and I’m looking forward to contributing to this great community. I’ve recently been attending the sessions more often, and my experiences playing and listening at Racer have been very inspiring.

Over the summer I became quite interested in Lennie Tristano and his musical and pedagogical legacy. I came across an amazing book called Lennie Tristano: His Life in Music by Eunmi Shim. The first half of the book provides biographical information about Tristano and his students. The second half of the book, however, interested me most of all; the author had interviewed numerous Tristanoites and had compiled a Tristano School ‘curriculum’ of sorts. Among the many aspects to Tristano’s approach to teaching, I was particularly interested in his emphasis on transcription and learning to sing the solos of the masters.

So, I decided to assign myself a project. I began to apply Tristano’s transcription method to one of the greatest masters of improvisation: Lester Young. I found a great post from Ethan Iverson’s blog, Do the Math, which was a great introduction into the ‘golden years’ of Prez (for those interested: http://dothemath.typepad.com/dtm/lester-young-centennial.html). In turn, I began to track down some of the choice cuts of Prez in his heyday, and immediately started singing along.

For my curation, I am going to present a few of my favorite Prez solos, sing along, play along on piano, and perform an improvisation inspired by my study of the master himself. I believe that we as improvisers can all learn from the honesty, clarity and creativity that Prez delivers effortlessly with every note.

I must also mention that Jacob Zimmerman’s June 17th, 2012 curation inspired the subject matter and organization of my own curation. His presentation of Warne Marsh and Charlie Parker truly resonated with me, so please take a moment to check out his curation if you haven’t already.

For the jams to follow, I plan to play a recording of a different Prez solo before each improvisation, with the hopes that we can all start playing with the spirit and energy of Lester. Improvisers should know that they aren’t expected to play over changes or to use the language of Lester, but that they should keep in mind his clarity and originality.