Rifftides postings have been seldom lately because I’m working on a magazine piece about the resuscitation of Lester Young’s tenor saxophone and the consequent revival of a band devoted to his music. More about that later. In the meantime, here’s a set of thoughts from and about Prez.
Well, the way I play, I try not to be a ‘repeater pencil’, ya dig? Originality’s the thing. You can have tone and technique and a lot of other things but without originality you ain’t really nowhere. Gotta be original.–Lester Young
The trouble with most musicians today is that they are copycats. Of course you have to start out playing like someone else. You have a model, or a teacher, and you learn all that he can show you. But then you start playing for yourself. Show them that you’re an individual. And I can count those who are doing that today on the fingers of one hand.–Lester Young
When Lester plays, he almost seems to be singing; one can almost hear the words.–Billie Holiday
In some ways Lester Young is the most complex rhythmically of any musician. He does some things which are just phenomenal.–Lee Konitz
Anyone who doesn’t play like Lester Young is wrong.–Brew Moore
And, in case you haven’t seen it in a while, here are Prez and a few of his friends in Gjon Mili’s classic 1944 short film Jammin’ The Blues. The cast credits run at the top. Do yourself a favor and watch it full screen.