Leonard Joseph Tristano (19 March1919 - 18 November1978) was a jazz pianist and composer. He performed in the cool jazz, bebop, post bop and avant-garde jazz genres. He remains a somewhat overlooked figure in jazz history, but his enormous originality and dazzling work as an improviser have long been appreciated by knowledgeable jazz fans; in addition, his work as a jazz educator meant that he has exerted a substantial indirect influence on jazz, through figures such as Lee Konitz and Bill Evans.
Tristano was born in Chicago into an Italian immigrant family from Aversa. He was blind from infancy and studied piano and music theory from pre-teen years, graduating from his home town's American Conservatory of Music in 1943.
Tristano's interest in jazz inspired a move to New York City in 1946. His advanced grasp of harmony pushed his music beyond even the complexities of the contemporary bebop movement, though Tristano was always explicit about acknowledging his enormous debt to Charlie Parker and Bud Powell. (Other key ingredients in his style were Nat King Cole and Art Tatum, influences most audible in his early drummerless trio recordings.) Though he and his followers remained at something of a slant to mainstream bebop, Tristano did on occasion play and record with bebop's preeminent figures such as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Often the "Tristano school" has been contrasted with bebop, however, by being labelled "cool jazz", though this risks lumping his music in with unrelated styles like the West Coast cool jazz of the 1950s.