Pianist Billy Lester is a late-bloomer on that reticent branch of the jazz tree, the school of Lennie Tristano. He studied with the great pianist and educator Sal Mosca for 16 years—intense lessons devoted largely to ear training exercises, transcriptions, and endless harmonic configurations.
At the age of 32, Billy found himself in a crisis of identity. After delving so deeply for so many of his formative years into the techniques of Sal (and Lennie Tristano, Sal’s mentor), Billy had no idea what his own musical identity was. One morning, Billy sat down at the piano, closed his eyes and focused on his own emotional state. He found, if he concentrated long enough, that the feelings he had in that moment had their own sound. He reached out one hand and found that note on the piano. This experience, of playing one “true” note, flooded him with gratitude. Billy says that that moment, in his early thirties, is the moment he became an artist.