support Tone without tears Beginners' impro Patterns & exercises

in memorium - Lester Young

Young Col

Senior Member
Coulsdon, London/Surrey
It seems amazing that it was 50 years ago on March 15 that Lester Young died. As a great fan of Pres I feel sorry not to have marked the occasion on forum. I had been tardy in checking the exact date and was reminded by a request on BBC3 Jazz Record Requests this evening.

As a mark of respect I just listened again to one of my favourite CDs - Pres and Teddy (Wilson) from 1956 with Gene Ramey and Jo Jones ( what a rhythm section!). Even with Pres not at his best on all tracks, alcoholism taking a terrible toll, it is a memorable set, whether up tempo or wistful ballad and does not sound at all dated. "All of Me" is a cracker.

Pres helped open the door to modern jazz. Where Coleman Hawkins could not resist exploring the harmonic possibilities of melodies, filling in all the chords and adding passing notes, Pres extended linear melodic improvisation across standard two or four bar phrases, often lazily behind but sometimes in front of or across the beat. His early recording of Lady Be Good is one of the great jazz solos. His work with Billie Holiday is, rightly, legendary. He was the original dark shades-wearing laid back jive talker.

And if you ever wondered where rock and roll came from, Listen to Pres and Carl Smith riffing behind Jimmy Rushing on "I May be Wrong" from 1936. Jump, lindy Hop, jive, rock and roll all comes from that stuff, straight out of Kansas City.

So spare a moment to remember the President. He didn't get called that for nothing!:welldone:mrcool:sax:

Young Col
Simon, Yeah, 12 bars of magic. Phil Edwards has a transcription of that which he let me have a copy of last time it was mentioned on here! I've got it saved too.
Strange that the YouTube clip is titled 1944, when the text rightly says it is 1957. She might have written it/first recorded it in 1944. As you say, what a stellar line up!
Must have seen this clip many times here, all time favourite. If it was 1944, I was standing in the garden watching 'doodlebugs' passing overhead so the young looking Gerry would have been called up and his collar and jacket is obviously later design.

The way to celebrate the Pres is to blow a few choruses of 'Lester Leaps In'.
Couldn't agree more, he was an original who had the nerve to play his way and not follow the existing model for tenor playing.
His playing on 'Lady be Good' is a milestone, and it was the first time he was recorded, October 8th 1936.
At no point does he actually play the tune, his improvisation is inventive but what is most surprising for the time is the rhythmic playfulness and disregard for bar lines and conventional phrasing.

A masterpiece, right up there with Louis Armstrong's 'West End Blues'.
Alas alcohol and the cares of the world took their toll, and although there are recordings of his later years where he is on form they became increasingly sporadic.
I find that film of him with Billie Holiday sad. I wish there were film of him pre-war with Basie et al.

ps. the TV recording was actually from CBS television 'The sound of Jazz' in 1957, they both died in 1959.
Last edited by a moderator:
Yes, amazing for the time Alan, the only time the melody is really stated is in the first few bars of Basie's intro.The rest is indeed pure brilliance... and at his first (and somewhat fortuitous) recording date! It's up there with many of the greats (Armstrong's stop chorus on Potato Head for me - I have the first 4 bars as my ring tone!). The other one where there's a real style and date parallel is Bix's Singin' the Blues, where again the melody is not stated at all until it's hinted at in one of the later choruses; plus Frank Trumbauer takes a beautifully sculpted solo - and his C melody was an early inspiration for Pres.

There's some film of Pres with the Basie band at Randall's Island NYC in '38 on YouTube, but the sound is dubbed. Still, good to see him out front in shades! And there are the live concert recordings in 38/39 from the Spirituals to Swing Carnegie Hall concerts. I suspect that's all there is pre-war, but delighted to be corrected!
Hope the above doesn't post twice, but my server is playing up (thank you Sir Richard).
ps I'm the only one who's noticed my poor Latin spelling (in memoriam). My excuse is I only did Latin for two years and that was 45 years ago.
No Need to keep carping on about it. I spent yesterday afternoon cleaning out the pond filters. Bessie Smith's "Muddy Water" kept running through my mind. What with the sludge and the occasional dead frog jammed in the pipes, I shall be glad when Radio3 Jazz Record Requests returns to provide a compulsory alternative to anything else.
Thank you so much Mr G. When I return your direct cut Harry James album, how many pieces would you like it in?>:)
Whenever that is, perhaps we should try Lester Leaps In. Trouble is, I always find the theme elusive (that is, I forget it)!

Similar threads... or are they? Maybe not but they could be worth reading anyway 😀

Support Cafesaxophone

Tutorials CDs PPT mouthpieces

Forum statistics

Latest member
Top Bottom