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Lester Young

Lester Young was one of the true jazz giants, a tenor saxophonist who came up with a completely different conception in which to play his horn, floating over bar lines with a light tone rather than adopting Coleman Hawkins' then-dominant forceful approach. A non-conformist, Young (nicknamed "Pres" by Billie Holiday) had the ironic experience in the 1950s of hearing many young tenors try to sound exactly like him.

Although he spent his earliest days near New Orleans, Lester Young lived in Minneapolis by 1920, playing in a legendary family band. He studied violin, trumpet, and drums, starting on alto at age 13. Because he refused to tour in the South, Young left home in 1927 and instead toured with Art Bronson's Bostonians, switching to tenor. He was back with the family band in 1929 and then freelanced for a few years, playing with Walter Page's Blue Devils (1930), Eddie Barefield in 1931, back with the Blue Devils during 1932-1933, and Bennie Moten and King Oliver (both 1933). He was with Count Basie for the first time in 1934 but left to replace Coleman Hawkins with Fletcher Henderson. Unfortunately, it was expected that Young would try to emulate Hawk, and his laid-back sound angered Henderson's sidemen, resulting in Pres not lasting long. After a tour with Andy Kirk and a few brief jobs, Lester Young was back with Basie in 1936, just in time to star with the band as they headed East. Young made history during his years with Basie, not only participating on Count's record dates but starring with Billie Holiday and Teddy Wilson on a series of classic small-group sessions. In addition, on his rare recordings on clarinet with Basie and the Kansas City Six, Young displayed a very original cool sound that almost sounded like altoist Paul Desmond in the 1950s. After leaving Count in 1940, Young's career became a bit aimless, not capitalizing on his fame in the jazz world. He co-led a low-profile band with his brother, drummer Lee Young, in Los Angeles until re-joining Basie in December 1943. Young had a happy nine months back with the band, recorded a memorable quartet session with bassist Slam Stewart, and starred in the short film Jammin' the Blues before he was drafted. His experiences dealing with racism in the military were horrifying, affecting his mental state of mind for the remainder of his life.

Although many critics have written that Lester Young never sounded as good after getting out of the military, despite erratic health he actually was at his prime in the mid- to late-'40s. He toured (and was well paid by Norman Granz) with Jazz at the Philharmonic on and off through the '40s and '50s, made a wonderful series of recordings for Aladdin, and worked steadily as a single. Young also adopted his style well to bebop (which he had helped pave the way for in the 1930s). But mentally he was suffering, building a wall between himself and the outside world, and inventing his own colorful vocabulary. Although many of his recordings in the 1950s were excellent (showing a greater emotional depth than in his earlier days), Young was bothered by the fact that some of his white imitators were making much more money than he was. He drank huge amounts of liquor and nearly stopped eating, with predictable results. 1956's Jazz Giants album found him in peak form as did a well documented engagement in Washington, D.C., with a quartet and a last reunion with Count Basie at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival. But, for the 1957 telecast The Sound of Jazz, Young mostly played sitting down (although he stole the show with an emotional one-chorus blues solo played to Billie Holiday). After becoming ill in Paris in early 1959, Lester Young came home and essentially drank himself to death. Many decades after his death, Pres is still considered (along with Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane) one of the three most important tenor saxophonists of all time. ~ Scott Yanow
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Blue Lester

1. Indiana

2. Blue Lester

3. Jump, Lester, Jump

4. Ghost Of A Chance

5. Basic English

6. These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)

7. Exercise In Swing

8. Salute To Fats

9. Crazy Over J-Z

10. Blues 'N' Bells

11. Ding Dong

12. June Bug

13. Circus In Rhythm

14. Poor Little Plaything

15. Tush

x

Track List: Ken Burns Jazz - Lester Young

1. Oh, Lady, Be Good!

2. Every Tub

3. Honeysuckle Rose

4. Pagin' The Devil

5. A Sailboat In The Moonlight

6. He's Funny That Way

7. Getting Some Fun Out Of Life

9. Taxi War Dance

11. Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie

12. Lester Leaps In

13. Tickle Toe

14. Sometimes I'm Happy

15. I've Found A New Baby

16. D.B. Blues

17. Jumpin' With Symphony Sid

18. This Year's Kisses

19. Polka Dots And Moonbeams

x

Track List: Ultimate Lester Young

1. I've Found A New Baby

2. Pennies From Heaven

3. I Didn't Know What Time It Was

4. The Man I Love

5. Just You, Just Me

6. Mean To Me

7. All Of Me

8. Somebody Loves Me

9. Lester Leaps Again

10. That's All

11. I Want To Be Happy

x

Track List: The "Kansas City" Sessions

1. Way Down Yonder In New Orleans [take 2]

2. Way Down Yonder In New Orleans

3. Countless Blues

4. Countless Blues [take 2]

5. Them There Eyes [take 2]

6. Them There Eyes

7. I Want A Little Girl

8. I Want A Little Girl [take 2]

9. Pagin' The Devil

10. Pagin' The Devil [take 2]

11. Three Little Words [take 2]

12. Three Little Words

13. Jojo

14. I Got Rhythm (Take 3)

15. I Got Rhythm (Take 2)

16. I Got Rhythm

17. Four O'Clock Drag

18. Four O'Clock Drag [take 3]

19. Laughing At Life

20. Good Morning Blues

21. I Know That You Know

22. Love Me Or Leave Me

x

Track List: Jazz Masters 30

1. Love Me Or Leave Me

2. Sometimes I'm Happy

3. I've Found A New Baby

4. Polka Dots And Moonbeams

5. On The Sunny Side Of The Street

7. Prisoner Of Love

8. In A Little Spanish Town

9. Just You, Just Me

10. Peg O' My Heart

11. Too Marvelous For Words

12. All Of Me

13. I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)

14. Mean To Me

15. I Never Knew

x

Track List: The Jazz Giants

1. I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plan

2. I Didn't Know What Time It Was

3. Gigantic Blues

4. This Year's Kisses

5. You Can Depend On Me

x

Track List: Lester Young Trio

1. Back To The Land

2. I Cover The Waterfront (Take 1)

3. I Cover the Waterfront (Take 2)

4. Somebody Loves Me

5. I've Found A New Baby

6. The Man I Love

7. Peg o' My Heart

8. I Want To Be Happy

9. Mean To Me

10. Back To The Land

11. I've Found A New Baby

12. Rosetta

13. Sweet Lorraine

14. Blowed and Gone

x

Track List: Lester Swings

1. In A Little Spanish Town

2. Let’s Fall In Love

4. Lester Swings

5. Slow Motion Blues

6. Ad Lib Blues 

7. I Can’t Get Started

8. Just You, Just Me

9. Almost Like Being In Love

10. Tea For Two

11. There Will Never Be Another You

12. Indiana

13. On The Sunny Side Of The Street

15. I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You)

16. I Can’t Give You Anything But Love

x

Track List: The Complete Lester Young Studio Sessions On Verve

Disc 1

1. Back To The Land

2. I Cover The Waterfront (12'' LP Take)

3. I Cover the Waterfront

4. Somebody Loves Me

5. I've Found A New Baby

6. The Man I Love

7. Peg O' My Heart

8. I Want to Be Happy

9. Mean To Me

10. Too Marvelous For Words (78-rpm Take)

11. Too Marvelous For Words

12. 'Deed I Do

13. Encore

14. Polka Dots And Moonbeams

15. Up 'N' Adam

16. Three Little Words

17. Count Every Star

18. Count Every Star

19. It All Depends On You

20. Neenah (Alternative Take)

21. Neenah (Alternative Take)

22. Neenah

Disc 2

1. Jeepers Creepers

2. Thou Swell

3. Thou Swell

4. September In The Rain

5. Undercover Girl Blues

6. Frenesi

7. Pete's Cafe

8. Little Pee Blues

9. Foggy Day

10. In A Little Spanish Town

11. Let's Fall In Love

12. Down 'N' Adam

13. Lester Swings

14. Slow Motion Blues

15. Ad Lib Blues

16. Just You, Just Me

17. Tea For Two

19. These Foolish Things

20. I Can't Get Started

Disc 3

1. Star Dust

2. It Takes Two To Tango

3. On the Sunny Side Of The Street

4. Almost Like Being In Love

5. I Can't Give You Anything But Love

6. There Will Never Be Another You

7. I'm Confessin'

8. Willow Weep For Me

9. This Can't Be Love

10. Can't We Be Friends?

11. Tenderly

12. New D. B. Blues

13. Jumpin' At The Woodside

14. I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me

15. Oh, Lady, Be Good!

16. Another Mambo

17. Come Rain Or Come Shine

18. Rose Room

19. Somebody Loves Me

20. Touch Me Again

21. It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)

Disc 4

1. I'm In The Mood For Love

2. Big Top Blues

3. Mean To Me

5. That's All

6. Red Boy Blues

7. Pennies From Heaven

10. One O'Clock Jump

11. It's The Talk Of The Town

12. I've Found A New Baby

13. I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plan

Disc 5

1. I Didn't Know What Time It Was

2. Gigantic Blues

3. This Year's Kisses

4. You Can Depend On Me

5. Pres Returns

6. Prisoner Of Love

7. Taking A Chance On Love

8. All Of Me

9. Louise

10. Love Is Here To Stay

11. Love Me Or Leave Me

Disc 6

5. Love Is Here To Stay

Disc 7

1. You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me

3. Gypsy in My Soul

4. Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone

5. They Can't Take That Away From Me

6. Salute To Benny

8. Mean To Me

9. I Didn't Know What Time It Was

10. Oh Lady Be Good

11. Almost Like Being In Love

12. Three Little Words

13. I Cover The Waterfront

14. I Can't Get Started

Disc 8

1. (Back Home Again In) Indiana

2. Pennies From Heaven

3. New D.B. Blues

4. Lullaby Of Birdland

5. There Will Never Be Another You

6. Tea For Two

7. Early Life (Birthplace / Music In New Orleans / Young's Father)

8. After New Orleans

9. Pres's Instruments (Drums / Tenor Saxophone0

10. Count Basie

11. Racial Tension

12. Influences

13. Composing And Reading Music (The Family Band / With Orchestra)

14. Recordings: Clarinet Dates

15. Lady Day And Nobody's Business

16. Philosophy On Music I

17. Younger Saxophone

18. Basie Then And Now

19. Debunking

20. Philosophy On Music II

21. Pres's Sound: Sitting In With Fletcher Henderson

22. Joining Henderson

23. Early Pres; Oliver, Bronson, Basie

24. Coleman Hawkins And Henderson

25. Billie Holiday

26. Recording Techniques

27. Pres's Favorite Singers

28. Philosophy On Music Vis-A-Vis Other Tenor Players

29. Records New And Old

30. Mahalia Jackson

Comments

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Ultimatum
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Mmmmmm...GOO D !
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I'm surprised this pre-1960 recording sounds as good as it does -- it must've been re-mastered.
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never tired of lisening to prez 40 years I still enjoy his music
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I think you mean paul following
The Pres










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Yesss!
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poppa_bear49
First Ben, then Coleman and now Lester...som e b o d y call the LAW; PANDORA is trying to kill somebody. Pull the fish out the freezer cause you guys are COOKIN' tonight.
Report as inappropriate
chieftyee
Sounded like Paul Desmond… you got to be kidding me.
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Smooth...mmm m !
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poppa_bear49
Lester, Lester, Lester!!!
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Mr. Young cooks cool Jazz. Yea snapping fingers and tapping feet.
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Atv90 years old imam still trying to play like Lester young
Jim Depalo
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Glad I am old so I was able to se and hear all these greats live.
Report as inappropriate
The Great One.
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clogan7536
Like water running out of a tap---it doesn't get better
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mm makes me want to take out my horn!
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I hear the same heartache in his playing that I hear in Billie Holliday's voice. There is something deeply touching in the music both of them made. I can see why they admired each other.
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Great!
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To me, Lester's greatest era was with Sid Catlett, Johnny Guineri, & Slam Stewart.
George Hampton
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speakerstudi o
Lester was such an inspiration to so many sax players and jazz fans alike. he certainly got me started on tenor. John Regan
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AMAZING!!!!! ! ! !
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What can you say....._Som e of the Best recordings Ever put down..._Arti s t i c Genius.....!
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PREZ for PREZ!!!!!!! It doesn't get better!!!!!! !
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Oh, my GOD! That sax feels like ...
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PREZ!!!!!!! 'nuff said.
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Lester Young is how know there is a God.
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The bio writer failed to mention the reason behind the nickname Prez: Billie Holiday named him that because she felt he was President of the tenor saxophone. This is obvious to jazz buffs but not to novices.
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@Rabbi Stanley HOWARD Schwartz - nope, I'm not Eli from C. Christi, from SF/Bay Area but thanks for the props! Actually, thanks to Prez, the Hawk, Ben, and Stan!
Report as inappropriate
i'm not a muscian-i'm a fan-so maybe i don't know what i'm talking about but i loved how his horn would fade away-yea,it could be the production but who wants to remaster the hell out of everything-w h y doesn't remaster me.i'm a street outreach worker-good at what i do-can't play the horn and the prez couldn't do what i do-so if it sounds good-it is-muscians are so arragant.
Report as inappropriate
E Escobar said it exactly. Getz, Webster, and Hawkins. I wonder if it was my friend Eli Escobar of Corpus Christi, TX?
Report as inappropriate
His lyrical style touches me deeply to this day. I've listened to Young since I was a kid at my uncle's home in Florida on old 78 reocrds, then on 33s, but he is a joy to hear on Pandora. Everyone should.
Report as inappropriate
You knew who was blowing after just a few notes. He was so distinctive especially with the fake notes. I love Sometimes I'm Happy.
Report as inappropriate
"These Foolish Things" is one of my 'faves' and if you dig into the history you'll find a young Quincy Jones arranged charts that Prez performed on. Oh there were a couple of singers up front...what were their names? Oh...Sarah Vaughn and Billie Eckstein baby!
Report as inappropriate
zimnee
PREZ ALWAYS STOOD OUT WITH HIS UMIQE STYLE ABD BILLY STUCK THAT OB HIM IN MY VIEW THOSE TWO HAD SOMETHING IN HIS LAST DAYS REPORTS ARE HE HAD A ROOM ACROSS BL AND HE JUST KIND OF DIMININISHED AWAY IF TRUE HOW SAD LIKT TO SEE A BIO PIC ON HIM A TRUE ICON OF THAT WORLD OF SO CALLED JAZZ
Report as inappropriate
this my kinda music i like this
Report as inappropriate
pattygrigs
When I was six or seven years old that would be about 1947 Lester use to vist
a girlfriend in Minneapolis Me and my friends were struck by the funny Hat He
wore straw top hat. His girlfriend lived in the northside projects that were built by the W.P.A when F.D.R was president one half was black the other white
My father was a jazz buff He told me who He was.
Report as inappropriate
pattygrigs
Mr.Smooth influenced alot of west coast artist
Report as inappropriate
Prez - seriously. BF.
Report as inappropriate
jdavis5775
At his best with Teddy Wilson on piano.
Report as inappropriate
juanr1
I thought this was Count Basie's orchestra?
Report as inappropriate
Tone to die for. Only Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, and Stan Getz had tone to compare. Just beautiful... b e a u t i f u l
Report as inappropriate
Yep, just trim her hair a bit, and slap a mustache on her, and they could be brother and sister! Hahahaha! Seriously, I love them both. Two of the greatest ever!
Report as inappropriate
penwoman65
lester sure looks a lot like billy holiday.
Report as inappropriate
As one who loves jazz and a saxophonist myself it truely gets no better unless there was a bird, yardbird i mean.
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Highly familar with this artist, great lover of his sound!
Report as inappropriate
the PREZ,AS HE WAS CALLED BY BILLIE HOLIDAY AND MANY OTHERS. of course I was there..... In Spirit....
Report as inappropriate
Thank you Lester !
Could yall please play some of the early Billie Holliday with Lester weaving
in & out(from the 30's & 40's),such as "Me,Myself & I ".That's some of the most affecting stuff ever recorded.
Thank you, David Mikell
Report as inappropriate
neilruth2468
Lester still rules.!!

Report as inappropriate
How about his Commodore album? He plays clarinet on three songs.
Report as inappropriate
Sounds like Monk!
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