With so little video of Lester Young, every foot of him performing on film is precious. Loren Schoenberg calls attention to a performance by Young that showed up recently on You Tube. Whoever submitted the clip from a kinescope of Art Ford’s Jazz Party television program provided no information beyond Young’s name. Ray Bryant is the pianist. The bassist is Vinnie Burke, who was on many of Ford’s shows. Does anyone recognize the drummer? We catch a glimpse of cornetist Rex Stewart, who does not play with Young on “Polka Dots and Moonbeams.” The sound is about a beat out of synchronization with the video. At the end of the piece, Ford introduces Sylvia Syms, whose song is chopped aborning. Such are the vagaries of You Tube; you take what you get. In this case, we are grateful to get Lester. This was most likely 1958 or ’59, shortly before he died.
To be reminded how rich jazz was with major musicians fifty years ago and to see a substantial section of one of Ford’s broadcasts, click here.