Music: Schoenberg of Jazz

In a smoky Manhattan bop-house called Birdland, a crowd of jazz fans gathered to hear a leisurely instrumental sextet skim through a performance that was neither Dixieland, swing, nor bebop. Not even a confirmed boppist could find a melodic phrase to sing "Ooble-dee-ah-de-coo" with, as the practice is nowadays; there was not even so much as a "Man, that's cool!"* Passionate disciples of blind Pianist-Composer-Theorist Lennie Tristano, 32, are much too conservative for such crudities.

The music Tristano and his group plays has no special name; Tristano just calls it "contemporary." Technically, it...

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