Photographs from the “Suite for Lennie” multimedia project by Massimo Achilli

 curated by Ambra Laurenzi



Suite for Lennie is a tribute to one of the greatest American musicians of the 1900s, who was able to  penetrate the music world through a refined sensitivity and alternative routes, captivating those who since childhood have been deprived of their eyesight.

Lennie Tristano was a complex individual, very cultured and with a great classical musical background. He was an example of rigor and style and of a  reserved and demanding life, rare characteristics on the jazz music scene.

Massimo Achilli, succeeds in blending different languages through photographs, videos and music in his role as a multimedia artist. A visual emotional synthesis where rhythm is clear within the images of re-read cities, re-thought colours and abstractions of marks and lights that accompany the notes of some of Tristano’s extraordinary pieces of work. Among which, Requiem is considered one of the master pieces of contemporary American music, and was written in honor of his musician friend Charlie Parker who  passed away suddenly.

Images follow each other, like the music and run after one another in the harmony of a composition where the musician’s hands  extraordinarily follow his same thought, on a seemingly suspended keyboard, giving form and life to those notes that we feel are added to each part, just as each part seems to stimulate the musician to compose, despite the voluntary decision to live a recluse life in his workshop-home.

This is the reason why Lennie’s image, while concentrating on the musical performance, is reiterated.  Its presence overpowered as it blends into the places, people and cities of that America which performs its background role of a second lead here, to a musical story in its entirety.

We therefore find images of period films or photographs by Berenice Abbott, a pioneer in photography that is always in synthesis with the transformations of society, able to glorify the new modern urban architecture, like Tristano’s compositions are able to produce modern musical architectures.

This visual story would not be effective is each individual image did not have its own autonomous life and if Achilli had not thought of it, conceiving it as the word in a sentence, or a sentence in a paragraph and if each sentence or issue did not continuously modify its limits of creating a new language.

Chronicles of music critics of the 1940s and 1950s describe how extraordinary it was to be at this small man’s shows, despite his blindness, who was able to imperturbably dominate the piano with his instinct and imagination. He had become a spiritual guide for all progressive musicians of Chicago.

His jazz was expressed using a subdued, modern, refined, cultured language, and for this reason Tristano was considered the  forerunner of the cool-jazz  term, about which he said “Cool jazz is a stupid term.  The jazz we played was not at all cold. It was relaxed, not spectacular. It was serious and committed, that yes, but it was certainly not cold” 

In order to portray all of this, in a virtual, intense place of abstraction, Massimo Achilli looked for Tristano’s music.  He breaks up forms and colours, building a mechanism that transforms a frame into a staff to reach inside the notes and find the essence.  This is Lennie’s  place.