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Lester Young: Centennial Celebration Lester Young (2009)

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Lester Young: Centennial Celebration Lester Young No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Although he'd lived a scant 50 hard years when he died in 1959, tenor sax giant Lester Willis Young was and remains one of the most vital and influential forces in jazz. He used words as singularly as he played, dubbing Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
1915 - 1959
vocalist
"Lady Day"; theirs was an incomparable musical pairing and she returned the favor, calling him "Prez" for president. Prez proved to be the key link between the early jazz of Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
1901 - 1971
trumpet
and Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
1904 - 1969
sax, tenor
with the bop of the '40s. Among the legions of players influenced by his playing were Stan Getz
Stan Getz
Stan Getz
1927 - 1991
sax, tenor
, Al Cohn
Al Cohn
Al Cohn
1925 - 1988
sax, tenor
and Zoot Sims
Zoot Sims
Zoot Sims
1925 - 1985
sax, tenor
.

Sides 1-7 in this Centennial Celebration are from a 1956 Washington, DC gig in a relatively intimate setting as Young swings comfortably with musicians mostly a generation younger than himself. His playing is elegant, eloquent and subtle. Inventiveness and brisk pace on "Tea For Two" transform that chestnut while on "I Can't Get Started" he slows down and plays real pretty. For "Oh Lady, Be Good," a standard from his celebrated days with the '30s Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
band, he kicks the tempo up, swinging solidly in tandem with trombonist Earl Swope
Earl Swope
b.1922
. Throughout he displays the surprising rhythmic and melodic style for which he was famous. On "Just You, Just Me," Prez ebulliently calls out "beautiful" after a particularly sizzling drum solo from Jim Lucht.

The last three sides included are from Jazz at the Philharmonic performances and find Young in company with the likes ofOscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
1925 - 2007
piano
, Roy Eldridge
Roy Eldridge
Roy Eldridge
1911 - 1989
trumpet
, Herb Ellis
Herb Ellis
Herb Ellis
1921 - 2010
guitar
and Max Roach
Max Roach
Max Roach
1925 - 2007
drums
, giants all. The closer is Young's own signature tune, "Lester Leaps In," with the blazing heat of his soloing eliciting cheers and whistles from the audience.

Track Listing: Jumpin' With Symphony Sid; Tea For Two; I Can't Get Started; Pennies From Heaven; I'm Confessin' (That I Love You); Oh; Lady; Be Good; Just You; Just Me; Undecided; I Cover the Waterfront; Lester Leaps In.

Personnel: Sides 1-9: Lester Young: tenor saxophone. Sides 1-7: Earl Swope: trombone; Bill Potts: piano; Norman Williams: bass; Jim Lucht: drums. Side 8: Flip Phillips: tenor saxophone; Roy Eldridge: trumpet; Hank Jones: piano; Ray Brown: bass; Max Roach: drums. Sides 9 and 10: Oscar Peterson: piano; Herb Ellis: guitar; Ray Brown: bass; J.C. Heard: drums.

Record Label: Original Jazz Classics

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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