Lester Young/Roy Eldridge/Harry Edison: Laughin' to Keep from Cryin'
This 1958 all-star date documents Pres on his last legs, about a year away from death. His tone is faltering and his energy level is low — especially on the clarinet, which he plays on "Salute to Benny" and "They Can’t Take That Away From Me." But still, on "Gypsy In My Soul" and "Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone," his entrances are pure Lester Young. One note and you know it’s him.
Joining Lester are trumpet greats Roy Eldridge and Harry "Sweets" Edison, backed by the fabulous rhythm section of Hank Jones, Herb Ellis, George Duvivier, and Mickey Sheen. Two tracks are previously unreleased: a jam-session-style take of "Mean to Me" and a three-part ballad medley that features each horn player in turn. Eldridge renders "The Very Thought of You," Sweets plays "I Want a Little Girl," and Pres recalls the old Basie days with "Blue and Sentimental."
Critics and Lester Young fans have long debated the relative worth of this album. One thing’s for sure: It would be a poor introduction for those not familiar with Lester’s work.