Saxophonist Mark Turner’s Stylistic Assimilation of Warne Marsh and the Tristano School



This project attempts to show that saxophonist Mark Turner has assimilated key stylistic characteristics of Warne Marsh and the “Tristano School” into his diversely modern style. The investigation operates on the commonly accepted idea that the music of Lennie Tristano and his associates is esoteric and that Turner‘s expression of their influence is rare. Interviews (with Turner, Gary Foster, and Joey Sellers) and musical transcriptions aid in identifying the stylistic traits and concepts Turner derived from Tristano and his associates.

The study provides background on Lennie Tristano’s musical values and teaching methodologies. It compares specific stylistic traits of Marsh and Turner, focuses on the impact and relevance of Turner‘s expression of a Marsh-Tristano influence and investigates Turner‘s assimilation of these influences into his own modern musical style. The study traces elements found in Turner‘s composition “Lennie Groove” to their roots in the music of Marsh, Lee Konitz, and Tristano.



Master’s Thesis, from CSULB Cole Conservatory of Music
Author: Jimmy Emerzian

Format: PDF

A note to readers and fans of the Mark Turner/Warne Marsh/Lennie Tristano research project:

As a lover of the music of Warne Marsh and Lennie Tristano, I found myself drawn to the work of saxophonist Mark Turner, in particular after my studies with Marsh-Tristano associate Gary Foster at UCLA in 1999.  Over the next several years, Mark Turner became one of my favorite musicians on the scene.  His music was progressive and his approach was abstract and organic all at once.  I heard the spirit of both Warne Marsh and John Coltrane alive in his improvisations, but without obvious mimicry…he was clearly exploring his own paths through the musical space of the moment.  However personal his approach would become, the reminiscence of Marsh and Tristano was still ever-present, and those in their esoteric sphere of influence seemed to pick up on it.  After all, Turner did record with Lee Konitz and later performed with Gary Foster.  Turner recorded Tristano’s “317 E. 32nd Street” on his own album, and even wrote a piece called “Lennie Groove” (which was the analytical centerpiece of this project).

In 2008,  following a focused period of investigation into these works and relationships, I completed over a year’s work assembling materials (including transcriptions and interviews) supporting Warne Marsh and Lennie Tristano’s influence on Turner and published the work in my Master’s Thesis.  While I have remained cautious in my stance that this project was just the tip of the iceberg regarding Mark Turner’s style, he has acknowledged that my thoughts on the subject of the Marsh-Tristano influence are accurate.  As of 2015, this project has now been downloaded and read by thousands all around the world.  While I never expected such interest in it, I am happy that I could provide even an introductory glimpse into what sparked one of the most influential periods of one of the world’s most influential players.  Hopefully in addition to providing insight into Mark Turner’s musical journey, this project also leads students and listeners to explore the music of Marsh, Tristano, and their associates.