Tristano’s Reichian Theory of Improvisation: Jazz of the Unconscious Mind


Tristano’s Reichian Theory of Improvisation: Jazz of the Unconscious Mind
Jazz Perspectives
1749-4060, 1749-4079
Controversial pianist and pedagogue Lennie Tristano (1919–1978) stands out as one of jazz’s most polarizing figures. His color-blind artistic ideology, Eurological improvisatory approach, and repeated condemnations of established African American artists problematizes jazz’s Afrocentric narrative while undermining his own canonic relevance. Time and again he challenged the idiomatic importance of figures like Coleman, Davis, Rollins, and Coltrane, unconvinced of their musics’ value and skeptical of their abilities to engage in “honest” music-making. These criticisms were informed, I argue, by unorthodox interpretive criteria largely overlooked by Tristano scholars to date. Here I assert that Tristano’s critical toolkit was comprised of analytical devices inspired by Neo-Freudian psychoanalytic theories of neurotic human selfhood. I also propose that his improvisational philosophy was informed by Freudian psychoanalytic concepts; and his students’ by the works of Neo-Freudian bio-psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich. To do so, I identify public statements, published writings, interview responses, and criticisms by and from members of the Tristano School that indicate a collective familiarity with Freudian psychoanalytic theory, an interest in its musico-improvisational implications, and evidence of active attempts to incorporate it into their own improvisational approaches.
Tristano’s Reichian Theory of Improvisation
2019-04-30T11:45:28Z (Crossref)