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My Uncle, Lennie Tristano, was a pianist of exceptional skill and coordination, for whom playing in different metres with each hand, posed no challenge.
Lennie was born in Chicago, March 19, 1919, to Mama Rose nèe Milano and Michael Tristano. As a child, he was stricken permanently blind by glaucoma - but his lack of sight never hindered his vision of becoming a great musician.
Lennie first studied music with his mother, my maternal grandmother, a vocational pianist, opera singer, and the woman who created and perfected many of the recipes on our menu, including the Chicago-style pizza. From 1928-38, Lennie attended the School for the Blind in Chicago, where he learned music theory and mastered several wind instruments. He later attended Chicago's American Conservatory of Music, from which he received a bachelor's degree in 1943.
In 1946, Lennie moved to New York, where he performed with many of the leading musicians of the day - notably Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. the influential music critic Barry Ulanov, took an extreme liking to Lennie's music and championed his work in the pages of Metronome magazine. In fact, Lennie was named Metronome's Musician of the Year for 1947.
In 1951, Lenny founded a school of jazz in New York, the first of its kind. Its faculty consisted of many of Lennie's most prominant students, including Lee Konitz, Billy Bauer, Warne Marsh, and pianist Sal Mosca.
As time went by, Lennie's public performances became fewer and farther between; for the rest of his life, he concentrated on teaching, mostly to the exclusion of everything else. He passed away in 1978, having inspired countless musicians and thousands of students.
To this day, the Tristano family is known for two things: Lennie's contribution to jazz music and authentic Italian food. I hope your dining experience lives up to this legacy.
Sincerely, Lou Tristano, owner