Much has been written about pianist Lennie Tristano and his calculated attempts to incorporate the musical advances of 20th century classical composers in jazz improvisation. One area Tristano focused on was encouraging the use of rhythmic groupings that created tension against the underlying pulse. Tristano would encourage his students to practice groupings of three, five, and seven to help break away from typical phrasing and bar line constraints in 4/4 time.

Today, Tristano’s impact is most often experienced through the recordings of his top two students: saxophonists Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz. In this excerpt, Marsh demonstrates groupings of three eighth notes on the standard “You Stepped Out of a Dream” (measures 13 through 16). This rhythmic hemiola starts on the third beat of the second bar in the excerpt and presents Marsh expertly linking the three-note pattern with the chromatic half step ii–V progression.


Warne Marsh on "You Stepped Out of a Dream" (1980)