Young in 1944, wearing pork pie hat
|Birth name||Lester Willis Young|
|Also known as||"Pres" or "Prez"|
|Born||August 27, 1909|
Woodville, Mississippi, U.S.
|Died||March 15, 1959 49) (aged|
New York City, New York
|Instruments||Tenor saxophone, clarinet|
|Labels||Verve, Commodore, Savoy, Pablo, Victor|
Lester Willis Young (August 27, 1909 – March 15, 1959), nicknamed "Pres" or "Prez", was an American jazz tenor saxophonist and occasional clarinetist.
Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States. It originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".
Coming to prominence while a member of Count Basie's orchestra, Young was one of the most influential players on his instrument. In contrast to many of his hard-driving peers, Young played with a relaxed, cool tone and used sophisticated harmonies, using what one critic called "a free-floating style, wheeling and diving like a gull, banking with low, funky riffs that pleased dancers and listeners alike".
William James "Count" Basie was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer. In 1935, Basie formed his own jazz orchestra, the Count Basie Orchestra, and in 1936 took them to Chicago for a long engagement and their first recording. He led the group for almost 50 years, creating innovations like the use of two "split" tenor saxophones, emphasizing the rhythm section, riffing with a big band, using arrangers to broaden their sound, and others. Many musicians came to prominence under his direction, including the tenor saxophonists Lester Young and Herschel Evans, the guitarist Freddie Green, trumpeters Buck Clayton and Harry "Sweets" Edison and singers Jimmy Rushing, Helen Humes, Thelma Carpenter, and Joe Williams.
Known for his hip, introverted style,he invented or popularized much of the hipster jargon which came to be associated with the music.
Hipster or hepcat, as used in the 1940s, referred to aficionados of jazz, in particular bebop, which became popular in the early 1940s. The hipster adopted the lifestyle of the jazz musician, including some or all of the following: dress, slang, use of marijuana and other drugs, relaxed attitude, sarcastic humor, self-imposed poverty, and relaxed sexual mores.
Jargon is the specialized terminology associated with a particular area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular communicative context and may not be well understood outside that context. The context is usually a particular occupation, but any ingroup can have jargon. The main trait that distinguishes jargon from the rest of a language is special vocabulary—including some words specific to it, and often different senses or meanings of words, that outgroups would tend to take in another sense—therefore misunderstanding that communication attempt. Jargon is sometimes understood as a form of technical slang and then distinguished from the official terminology used in a particular field of activity.
Lester Young was born in Woodville, Mississippi, on August 27, 1909.His mother was Lizetta Young (née Johnson), and his father was Willis Handy Young, originally from Louisiana. Lester had two siblings – Leonidas Raymond, who became a drummer, and Irma Cornelia. He grew up in a musical family. His father was a teacher and band leader, and several other relatives performed professionally.
Woodville is a town in and the county seat of Wilkinson County, Mississippi, United States. The population was 1,096 at the 2010 census.
Leonidas Raymond Young was an American jazz drummer and singer. His musical family included his father Willis Young and his older brother, saxophonist Lester Young. In 1944 he played with Norman Granz's first "Jazz at the Philharmonic" concert.
While growing up in New Orleans, he worked from the age of five to make money for the family. He sold newspapers and shined shoes. By the time he was ten, he had learned the basics of trumpet, violin, and drums, and joined the Young Family Band touring with carnivals and playing in regional cities in the SouthwestIn his teens he and his father clashed, and he often left home for long periods.
Young left the family band in 1927 at the age of 18 because he refused to tour in the Southern United States, where Jim Crow laws were in effect and racial segregation was required in public facilities.He became a member of the Bostonians, led by Art Bronson, and chose tenor saxophone over alto as his primary instrument. He made a habit of leaving, working, then going home. He left home permanently in 1932 when he became a member of the Blue Devils led by Walter Page.
The southern United States, also known as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South, is a region of the United States of America. It is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the western United States, with the midwestern United States and northeastern United States to its north and the Gulf of Mexico and Mexico to its south.
Jim Crow laws were state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States. All were enacted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by white Democratic-dominated state legislatures after the Reconstruction period. The laws were enforced until 1965. In practice, Jim Crow laws mandated racial segregation in all public facilities in the states of the former Confederate States of America and other states, starting in the 1870s and 1880s, and were upheld in 1896, by the U.S. Supreme Court's "separate but equal" legal doctrine for facilities for African Americans, established with the court's decision in the case of Plessy vs. Ferguson. Moreover, public education had essentially been segregated since its establishment in most of the South, after the Civil War (1861–65).
Walter Sylvester Page was an American jazz multi-instrumentalist and bandleader, best known for his groundbreaking work as a double bass player with Walter Page's Blue Devils and the Count Basie Orchestra.
In 1933 Young settled in Kansas City, where after playing briefly in several bands, he rose to prominence with Count Basie. His playing in the Basie band was characterized by a relaxed style which contrasted sharply with the more forceful approach of Coleman Hawkins, the dominant tenor sax player of the day.[ citation needed ] One of Young's key influences was Frank Trumbauer, who came to prominence in the 1920s with Paul Whiteman and played the C-melody saxophone (between the alto and tenor in pitch).
Young left the Basie band to replace Hawkins in Fletcher Henderson's orchestra.He soon left Henderson to play in the Andy Kirk band (for six months) before returning to Basie. While with Basie, Young made small-group recordings for Milt Gabler's Commodore Records, The Kansas City Sessions. Although they were recorded in New York (in 1938, with a reunion in 1944), they are named after the group, the Kansas City Seven, and comprised Buck Clayton, Dicky Wells, Basie, Young, Freddie Green, Rodney Richardson, and Jo Jones. Young played clarinet as well as tenor in these sessions. Young is described as playing the clarinet in a "liquid, nervous style." As well as the Kansas City Sessions, his clarinet work from 1938–39 is documented on recordings with Basie, Billie Holiday, Basie small groups, and the organist Glenn Hardman. Billie and Lester met at a Harlem jam session in the early 30s and worked together in the Count Basie band and in nightclubs on New York's 52nd St. At one point Lester moved into the apartment Billie shared with her mother, Sadie Fagan. Holiday always insisted their relationship was strictly platonic. She gave Lester the nickname "Prez" after President Franklin Roosevelt, the "greatest man around" in Billie's mind. Playing on her name, he would call her "Lady Day." Their famously empathetic classic recordings with Teddy Wilson date from this era.
After Young's clarinet was stolen in 1939, he abandoned the instrument until about 1957. That year Norman Granz gave him one and urged him to play it (with far different results at that stage in Young's life—see below).
Young left the Basie band in late 1940. He is rumored to have refused to play with the band on Friday, December 13 of that year for superstitious reasons spurring his dismissal,although Young and drummer Jo Jones would later state that his departure had been in the works for months. He subsequently led a number of small groups that often included his brother, drummer Lee Young, for the next couple of years; live and broadcast recordings from this period exist.
During this period Young accompanied the singer Billie Holiday in a couple of studio sessions (during 1937 - 1941 period) and also made a small set of recordings with Nat "King" Cole (their first of several collaborations) in June 1942. His studio recordings are relatively sparse during the 1942 to 1943 period, largely due to the recording ban by the American Federation of Musicians. Small record labels not bound by union contracts continued to record and he recorded some sessions for Harry Lim's Keynote label in 1943.
In December 1943 Young returned to the Basie fold for a 10-month stint, cut short by his being drafted into the army during World War II (see below). Recordings made during this and subsequent periods suggest Young was beginning to make much greater use of a plastic reed, which tended to give his playing a somewhat heavier, breathier tone (although still quite smooth compared to that of many other players). While he never abandoned the cane reed, he used the plastic reed a significant share of the time from 1943 until the end of his life. Another cause for the thickening of his tone around this time was a change in saxophone mouthpiece from a metal Otto Link to an ebonite Brilhart. In August 1944 Young appeared alongside drummer Jo Jones, trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison, and fellow tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet in Gjon Mili's short film Jammin' the Blues .
In September 1944 Young and Jo Jones were in Los Angeles with the Basie Band when they were inducted into the U.S. Army. Unlike many white musicians, who were placed in band outfits such as the ones led by Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw, Young was assigned to the regular army where he was not allowed to play his saxophone.[ citation needed ] Based in Ft. McClellan, Alabama, Young was found with marijuana and alcohol among his possessions. He was soon court-martialed. Young did not fight the charges and was convicted. He served one traumatic year in a detention barracks and was dishonorably discharged in late 1945. His experience inspired his composition "D.B. Blues" (with D.B. standing for detention barracks).[ citation needed ]
Young's career after World War II was far more prolific and lucrative than in the pre-war years in terms of recordings made, live performances, and annual income. Young joined Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP) troupe in 1946, touring regularly with them over the next 12 years. He made many studio recordings under Granz's supervision as well, including more trio recordings with Nat King Cole. Young also recorded extensively in the late 1940s for Aladdin Records (1946-7, where he had made the Cole recordings in 1942) and for Savoy (1944, '49 and '50), some sessions of which included Basie on piano...
While the quality and consistency of his playing ebbed gradually in the latter half of the 1940s and into the early 1950s, he also gave some brilliant performances during this stretch. Especially noteworthy are his performances with JATP in 1946, 1949, and 1950.[ citation needed ] With Young at the 1949 JATP concert at Carnegie Hall were Charlie Parker and Roy Eldridge, and Young's solo on "Lester Leaps In" at that concert is a particular standout among his performances in the latter half of his career.
From around 1951, Young's level of playing declined more precipitously as his drinking increased. His playing showed reliance on a small number of clichéd phrases and reduced creativity and originality, despite his claims that he did not want to be a "repeater pencil" (Young coined this phrase to describe the act of repeating one's own past ideas). Young's playing and health went into a crisis, culminating in a November 1955 hospital admission following a nervous breakdown.
He emerged from this treatment improved. In January 1956 he recorded two Granz-produced sessions including a reunion with pianist Teddy Wilson, trumpet player Roy Eldridge, trombonist Vic Dickenson, bassist Gene Ramey, and drummer Jo Jones – which were issued as The Jazz Giants '56 and Pres and Teddy albums. 1956 was a relatively good year for Lester Young, including a tour of Europe with Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Quartet and a successful residency at Olivia Davis' Patio Lounge in Washington, DC, with the Bill Potts Trio. Live recording of Young and Potts in Washington were issued later.
Throughout the 1940s and 50s, Young had sat in on Count Basie Orchestra gigs from time to time. The best-known of these is their July 1957 appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival, the line-up including many of his colleagues: Jo Jones, Roy Eldridge, Illinois Jacquet and Jimmy Rushing. In 1952 he was featured on Lester Young with the Oscar Peterson Trio , released in 1954 on Norgran.
Lester married three times. His first marriage was to Beatrice Tolliver, in Albuquerque, on 23 February 1930.His second was to Mary Dale.
His third wife was Mary Berkeley. They had two children: Lester W. Young Jr. (born 1947) and Yvette Young (born 1957).Both hold a PhD in Education, according to drummer Roy Haynes, who was interviewed as part of an attempt to create a film biography of Young. On January 31, 2008, Sady Sullivan conducted an oral history interview with Dr. Lester W. Young Jr. At approximately 1:10:00 he speaks about his father, listening to jazz, learning to play, and how having a famous father did not convey any favours.
On December 8, 1957, Young appeared with Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Roy Eldridge, and Gerry Mulligan in the CBS television special The Sound of Jazz, performing Holiday's tune "Fine and Mellow." It was a reunion with Holiday, with whom he had lost contact over the years. She was also in physical decline, near the end of her career, yet they both gave moving performances. Young's solo was brilliant, acclaimed by some observers as an unparalleled marvel of economy, phrasing and extraordinarily moving emotion; Nat Hentoff, one of the show's producers, later commented, "Lester got up, and he played the purest blues I have ever heard...in the control room we were all crying."
Young made his final studio recordings and live performances in Paris in March 1959 with drummer Kenny Clarke at the tail end of an abbreviated European tour during which he ate next to nothing and drank heavily. He died in the early morning hours of March 15, 1959, only hours after arriving back in New York, at the age of 49.
According to jazz critic Leonard Feather, who rode with Holiday in a taxi to Young's funeral, she said after the services, "I'll be the next one to go."Holiday died four months later on July 17, 1959 at age 44.
Charles Mingus dedicated an elegy to Young, "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat", only a few months after his death.Wayne Shorter, then of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, composed a tribute, called "Lester Left Town".
Young's playing style influenced many other tenor saxophonists, including Stan Getz, as well as Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, and Gerry Mulligan. Paul Quinichette modeled his style so closely on Young's that he was sometimes referred to as the "Vice Prez" (sic).[ citation needed ] Sonny Stitt began to incorporate elements from Lester Young's approach when he made the transition to tenor saxophone. Lester Young also had a direct influence on the young Charlie Parker, and thus the entire be-bop movement.
In 1981 OyamO (Charles F. Gordon) published the book The Resurrection of Lady Lester, subtitled "A Poetic Mood Song Based on the Legend of Lester Young", depicting Young's life. The work was subsequently adapted for the theater, and was staged in November of that year at the Manhattan Theater Club, New York City, with a four-piece jazz combo led by Dwight Andrews.
In the 1986 film Round Midnight , the fictional main character Dale Turner, played by Dexter Gordon, was partly based on Young – incorporating flashback references to his army experiences, and loosely depicting his time in Paris and his return to New York just before his death. Young is a major character in English writer Geoff Dyer's 1991 fictional book about jazz, But Beautiful .
The 1994 documentary about the 1958 Esquire "A Great Day in Harlem" photograph of jazz musicians in New York, contains many remembrances of Young. For many of the other participants, the photo shoot was the last time they saw him alive; he was the first musician in the famous photo to pass away.
Don Byron recorded the album Ivey-Divey in gratitude for what he learned from studying Lester Young's work, modeled after a 1946 trio date with Buddy Rich and Nat King Cole. "Ivey-Divey" was one of Lester Young's common eccentric phrases.
Young was the subject of an opera, Prez: A Jazz Opera, that was written by Bernard Cash and Alan Plater and broadcast by BBC television in 1985.
Peter Straub's short story collection Magic Terror (2000) contains a story called "Pork Pie Hat", a fictionalized account of the life of Lester Young. Straub was inspired by Young's appearance on the 1957 CBS-TV show The Sound of Jazz , which he watched repeatedly, wondering how such a genius could have ended up "this present shambles, this human wreckage, hardly able to play at all".
On 17 March 2003, Young was added to the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame, along with Sidney Bechet, Al Cohn, Nat "King" Cole, Peggy Lee and Teddy Wilson. He was represented at the ceremony by his children Lester Young Jr and Yvette Young.
Lester Young is said to have popularized use of the term "cool" to mean something fashionable.Another slang term he coined was the term "bread" for money. He would ask, "How does the bread smell?" when asking how much a gig was going to pay.
|MGN 5||Lester Young with the Oscar Peterson Trio #1||10'||1952||1954|
|MGN 6||Lester Young with the Oscar Peterson Trio #2||10'||1952||1954|
|MGN 1005||The President||1950-1952||1954|
|MGN 1022||It Don't Mean a Thing||1954||1955|
|MGN 1054||The President Plays with the Oscar Peterson Trio||with Oscar Peterson||1952||1955|
|MGN 1043||Pres and Sweets||with Harry Edison||1955||1956|
|MGN 1056||The Jazz Giants '56||1956||1956|
|MGN 1071||Lester's Here||1951-1953||1956|
|MGN 1074||The Lester Young Buddy Rich Trio||with Buddy Rich||1946||1956|
|MGN 1093||Lester Swings Again||Reissue of MGN 1005||1950-1952||1956|
|MGN 1100||It Don't Mean a Thing||Reissue of MGN 1022||1954||1956?|
|MGV 8134||Pres and Sweets||Reissue of Norgran MGN 1043||1955||1957|
|MGV 8144||The PresIdent Plays with the Oscar Peterson Trio||Reissue of Norgran MGN 1054||1952||1957|
|MGV 8161||Lester's Here||Reissue of Norgran MGN 1071||1951-1953||1957|
|MGV 8162||Pres||Reissue of Norgran MGN 1072||1950-1951||1957?|
|MGV 8164||The Lester Young Buddy Rich Trio||Reissue of Norgran MGN 1074||1946||1957?|
|MGV 8181||Lester Swings Again||Reissue of Norgran MGN 1005||1950-1952||1957?|
|MGV 8187||It Don't Mean a Thing||Reissue of Norgran MGN 1022||1954||1957|
|MGV 8205||Pres and Teddy||with Teddy Wilson||1956||1957|
|MGV 8298||Going for Myself||with Harry Edison||1957-1958||1958|
|MGV 8308||The Lester Young Story||Compilation||1950-1956||1959|
|MGV 8316||Laughin' to Keep from Cryin'||with Roy Eldridge and Harry Edison||1958||1959?|
|MGV 8378||Lester Young in Paris||Live||1959||1959|
|MGV 8398||The Essential Lester Young||Compilation||1949-1957||1959|
|402||Pres||Live. Early "in person" recordings. Recorded on a home recorder. First commercially issued collection of Young as band leader.||Multiple years||1961|
|405||Pres is Blue||Live (Savoy Ballroom)||1950||1963|
|409||Just You, Just Me||1948-1949||1961|
|504||Live at the Savoy (aka The Pres)||Live||?||1981|
|828||An Historical Meeting At The Summit||with Charlie Parker||?||1961|
|2308219||Pres, In Washington, DC 1956, volume 1||Live||1956||1980|
|2308225||Prez, In Washington, DC 1956, volume 2||Live||1956||1980|
|2308228||Pres, In Washington, DC 1956, volume 3||Live||1956||1981|
|2308230||Pres, In Washington, DC 1956, volume 4||Live||1956||1981|
With the Count Basie Orchestra
With Jazz at the Philharmonic
With Billie Holiday
Norman Granz was an American jazz music impresario.
Carlos Wesley "Don" Byas was an American jazz tenor saxophonist, most associated with bebop. He played with Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Art Blakey, and Dizzy Gillespie, among others, and also led his own band. He lived in Europe for the last 26 years of his life.
Jean-Baptiste "Illinois" Jacquet was an American jazz tenor saxophonist, best remembered for his solo on "Flying Home", critically recognized as the first R&B saxophone solo.
Harry "Sweets" Edison was an American jazz trumpeter and a member of the Count Basie Orchestra.
Jazz at the Philharmonic, or JATP (1944–1983), was the title of a series of jazz concerts, tours and recordings produced by Norman Granz.
Paul Quinichette was an American jazz musician who played the tenor saxophone. He was known as the "Vice President" or "Vice Prez" for his uncanny emulation of the breathy style of Lester Young, known as "Prez". Young, who affectionately called everyone "Lady ****", called him "Lady Q". Quinichette was also capable of a gruffer style on his own.
Benjamin Francis Webster was an American jazz tenor saxophonist. He is considered one of the three most important "swing tenors" along with Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. Known affectionately as "The Brute" or "Frog", he had a tough, raspy, and brutal tone on stomps, yet on ballads he played with warmth and sentiment. He was indebted to alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges, who, he said, taught him to play his instrument.
James Charles Heard, known as J. C. Heard, was an American swing, bop, and blues drummer.
Charles James Shavers was an American swing era jazz trumpeter who played with Dizzy Gillespie, Nat King Cole, Roy Eldridge, Johnny Dodds, Jimmie Noone, Sidney Bechet, Midge Williams, and Billie Holiday. He was an arranger and composer, and one of his compositions, "Undecided", is a jazz standard.
"The Sound of Jazz" is a 1957 edition of the CBS television series The Seven Lively Arts and was one of the first major programs featuring jazz to air on American network television.
Wilbur Dorsey "Buck" Clayton was an American jazz trumpet player who was a leading member of Count Basie's "Old Testament" orchestra and a leader of mainstream-oriented jam session recordings in the 1950s. His principal influence was Louis Armstrong. The Penguin Guide to Jazz says that he “synthesi[zed] much of the history of jazz trumpet up to his own time, with a bright brassy tone and an apparently limitless facility for melodic improvisation”. Clayton worked closely with Li Jinhui, father of Chinese popular music in Shanghai. His contributions helped change musical history in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The Count Basie Orchestra is a 16 to 18 piece big band, one of the most prominent jazz performing groups of the swing era, founded by Count Basie in 1935 and recording regularly from 1936. Despite a brief disbandment at the beginning of the 1950s, the band survived long past the Big Band era itself and the death of Basie in 1984. It continues as a 'ghost band'.
Between 1935 and 1955 Ella Fitzgerald was signed to Decca Records. Her early recordings as a featured vocalist were frequently uncredited. Her first credited single was 78 RPM recording "I'll Chase the Blues Away" with the Chick Webb Orchestra. Fitzgerald continued recording with Webb until his death in 1939, after which the group was renamed Ella Fitzgerald and Her Famous Orchestra. With the introduction of 10" and 12" Long-Playing records in the late 1940s, Decca released several original albums of Fitzgerald's music and reissued many of her previous single-only releases. From 1935 to the late 1940s Decca issued Ella Fitzgerald's recordings on 78rpm singles and album collections, in book form, of four singles that included eight tracks. These recordings have been re-issued on a series of 15 compact disc by the French record label Classics Records between 1992 and 2008.
Irving Conrad Ashby was an American jazz guitarist.
Pres and Teddy is a 1959 jazz studio album by The Lester Young and Teddy Wilson Quartet. Originally released by Verve, it has subsequently been reissued on CD by Verve, Universal Japan and Lonehill Jazz.
Songs for Distingué Lovers is an album by jazz singer Billie Holiday released in 1957 on Verve Records. It was originally available in both mono, catalogue number MGV 8257, and stereo, catalog number MGVS 6021. It was recorded at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles from January 3 to January 9, 1957, and produced by Norman Granz.
The Lester Young Trio and The Lester Young Trio No. 2 are jazz trio albums recorded in Hollywood, California in March–April 1946 by Lester Young with Nat King Cole and Buddy Rich.
This is the complete discography of the main 12-inch (8000) series of LPs issued by Verve Records, a label founded in 1956 by producer Norman Granz in Los Angeles, California. Alongside new sessions Granz re-released many of the recordings of his earlier labels Clef and Norgran on Verve.
Billie Holiday at Jazz at the Philharmonic is a live album by jazz singer Billie Holiday, originally recorded on February 12, 1945 and October 3, 1946 at the Jazz at the Philharmonic concert at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, and at Carnegie Hall on June 3, 1946.
"This Year's Kisses" is a popular song written in 1936 by Irving Berlin for the musical film On the Avenue (1937) and introduced by Alice Faye. The first recording of the song was on December 30, 1936, by Benny Goodman & His Orchestra, with a vocal by Margaret McCrae.
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