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Jazz ...I am discovering Lester Young (better late than never!)


Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
A perfect start of the day. Thank you.

One more coffee and off to the practice room.


It's all in the subject line. Better late than never. Some you can miss but Lester Young isn't one of those.

There's a nice little Youtube clip from Don Byron who talks about wanting to regain his clarinet chops and do it in relation to Coltrane but when he went back to do it, he found he had to step back to Lester Young. And we got the Ivey-Divey album out of that. Some things have watershed moments and I think Lester Young was most definitely a watershed moment for the saxophone.

I'm going to fall asleep to my Lester Young-Billie Holiday playlist right now. Sweet dreams, one and all.


Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Surrey, UK
I really love Lester's playing, but mainly from the late 30s and very early 40s. Then he played with such imagination and playfullness and he seemed way ahead of his time.

Recordings from later in his career, like this one, are almost too painful to listen to when you know what went before.


Young Col

Well-Known Member
Coulsdon, London/Surrey
Somehow missed this thread.....
Well you've made a great discovery! Lester's style gave birth to a complete alternative approach to Coleman Hawkins and inspired a raft of cool players including Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Paul Quinichette, Paul Desmond, Gerry Mulligan , to name a few....

I agree with Rhys, much of Lester's later stuff, while suffering from alcoholism, doesn't match up to his 30s and 40s playing (with the Basie band and small groups). His records with Billie Holiday are brilliant. There are some gems though. Some of the tracks (eg All of Me) from his 50's album with Teddy Wilson (plus Jo Jones, Gene Ramey - how could you go wrong?!) stand out, though some others are hackneyed. The same can be said of the Jazz Giants album with the same rhythm section (plus Freddie Green) and with Roy Eldridge and Vic Dickenson. That TV film of his last meeting with Billie Holiday is poignant. It was re-recorded a few days later for album release only with slightly different personnel.

There are couple of biographies of Lester Young, by Lewis Porter and Prof Douglas Daniels. I have read the latter and although it gives useful facts and anecdotes it is too political for my taste. Daniels has said he didn't know anything of Young before he researched it and indeed didn't like his music. I suspect, although I haven't read it, that Porter's gives a more musical appreciation.



Lester playing "These Foolish Things" on the old Aladdin compilation is the most beautiful thing I've ever heard played on a saxophone.

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