Lester Leaps In Douglas Henry Daniels Beacon Press ISBN: 0807071021
Once again the life of one of our music's most beautiful, unique voices is chronicled, this time in a historical biography. In Daniels' work you won't find detailed analyses of Young's performances or compositions, nor is the focus on juicy gossip. What you get is an incredibly comprehensive treatment of Young's life from before the cradle to beyond the grave. This book's greatest strength is Daniels' use of interviews conducted in the 1980's with Lester's fellow musicians, including Buck Clayton, John Collins, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Buster Smith and Connie Kay. Talk about timing!
Part of Daniels' mission here was setting the record straight. No, jazz didn't take a direct route from New Orleans north (much information on the "territories"); Lester wasn't just a Kansas City musician (rural Louisiana, the Midwest, Southwest and Minneapolis were among the places key to his musical and social development); Young's post-war career was not necessarily one of musical decline. Huge numbers of fans kept avidly following his career. He had his greatest financial success in this period. Many musicians felt that his musical development and significant contributions continued. Daniels places Lester Young's development, style and contributions squarely in African-American culture.
At times Daniels paints the picture of an almost saintly figure, yet includes ample testimony from those critical of Young's personal life as well as his music and is very forthright in detailing Pres' alcoholism. Daniels' last chapter, "Legacy", is particularly satisfying, recounting tributes, examples of Lester's influence on musicians and writers, and treatments of his life in other media.
Daniels' exhaustive reporting of historical documents (e.g. city directories) can be dull at times. Skim as needed. But even the more than one hundred pages of footnotes contain many gems. Overall Lester Leaps In is fascinating reading.
I was first exposed to jazz when I discovered that one of Jimi Hendrix's influences was Wes Montgomery. I played guitar growing up and idolized Hendrix, so I knew that anyone he looked up to must be good
I was first exposed to jazz when I discovered that one of Jimi Hendrix's influences was Wes Montgomery. I played guitar growing up and idolized Hendrix, so I knew that anyone he looked up to must be good. I was 16 at the time. I went to Tower Records and purchased a CD by Wes, and I was hooked from the very first ten seconds. The sound of the song Lolita illuminated my bedroom, as I just sat back amazed at how colorful and soulful this music was--I understood it, even though at the time I didn't understand how to go about playing it. I get chills listening to Wes' solo on Lolita, and I can still listen to that song ten times in a row and never get tired of it. There is a truly timeless quality to genuinely spontaneous jazz music, and it is that quality that has inspired me to devote my life to studying and playing this music.