CD: Lester Young

Lester Young, Boston 1950 (Uptown)

Lester Young 1950If it has been too long since you’ve listened to Lester Young, say a couple of weeks, this collection of club performances could be just what you need. The tracks are from radio broadcasts when Young’s quintet was appearing at Boston’s Hi-Hat in the spring of 1950. He may not have been the Lester of the late 1930s Count Basie band, but the exuberance and ingenuity of his playing counter claims that after WWII he was a burnt-out case. Young was always capable of playing a phrase that could astonish the listener. Here, he does it frequently. His colleagues include Connie Kay on drums and two rising young pianists, Kenny Drew and Horace Silver.

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  1. says

    I share your enthusiasm for the recording! In fact, I’d step it up further to say that it adds significantly to the picture of Lester’s evolution. There is a fluency and there are many phrases (as you mention) that will surprise even the most dedicated Lester Young fans. Something changed radically in his head, in his lungs and in his fingers in the next few years. Important fact: the CD is somewhere between a 1/4 and a 1/3 tone sharp. You’ll need to bring it down (easy to do these days with free software such as WavePad) to hear it in the correct pitch.

  2. Terence Smith says

    The tracks with Kenny Drew are great, but I got the CD to hear Horace Silver with Lester & Company.

    I remember reading in Horace Silver’s biography, Let’s Get to the Nitty Gritty, that Silver started out professionally as a tenor saxist consciously inspired by Lester, and he pays both Young and Getz great respect in the book.

    The two tracks with Silver on this CD do not disappoint. On “Up’N Adam”, Silver demonstrates that he is already in 1953 (album notes date) arguably the most energetically supportive accompanist ever, and his solo would be right at home on the Blue Note trio sides Silver made with Art Blakey around then. On “Blue & Sentimental”, Silver’s solo sounds like a classic from the Silver Quintet of years later. On both, Lester sounds like the most relaxed conduit imaginable for Silver’s enormous energy. Each is clearly energizing the other.

    I just discovered on the internet that Silver is apparently featured on two of the CDs in a collection called The Pres Box, and on live recordings with Lester Young at Birdland. I’ll bet those are priceless.

    And Lester Young is ALWAYS great.

  3. says

    Regarding the Lester Young CD you mention, I’ve been listening to some Pres solos from the Savory collection at the Museum of Jazz in Harlem, courtesy of Loren Schoenberg. This is much earlier Pres, and is spectacular. Long, lively, imaginative solos. Loren is getting the whole collection digitized and cleaned of extraneous noise, and at the same time is trying to find a way to make this music more public. At the moment you can only hear it by going to the museum, where they happily play it for you. But in order to release CDs of this material, the AFM currently requires a bond for current recording scale rates to be posted for all the musicians who played on the recordings, in case heirs can be found. Since the Savory collection includes so many big bands and such a variety of musicians, the cost would be far beyond the resources of the Museum. I’ve put Loren in touch with some of the officers at Local 802 to see if anyone can devise a special dispensation that could be negotiated with the AFM. I’ll let you know if there are any developments.

  4. Rob D says

    I just ordered this ..thanks for all the great comments. “Rifftides”..helping to keep me happy.

    I suspect some of you might have had that “non- Uncle” Uncle. Sometimes non- relatives take up a role that is lacking in your life and they might as well be blood because they care about you just as much (if not more, in some cases) than your real relatives. Uncle Bob Lafontaine was that kind of influence/mentor for me and he died last year. He introduced me to Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins on record and I will be always grateful that he did. He was not a huge jazz fan; Bob was a guy who knew a little about a lot of things. When I told him about how much I liked Count Basie and Ellington, he took me to see Mercer Ellington and band when they came to our small CAnadian city. Blew my mind completely. For a few years, everytime he went to NYC to visit friends, he would bring me back a bunch of LP’s..mostly jazz and blues. But he had a real love for Lester. I can’t hear a Lester Young record without thinking of Bob.