Monday, August 27, 2012

Tim Price Bloggin' For Rico- Respect for Lester Young in a Ivey Divy groove.

Happy Birthday to the great Lester Young. Lester Willis Young was an American jazz tenor saxophonist and clarinetist. Given the nickname 'Prez' by Billie Holliday, he also played trumpet, violin, and drums.Coming to prominence as a member of Count Basie's orchestra, Young remains one of the most influential players on his instrument. He also invented or popularized much of the hipster ethos and slang which came to be associated with the music. Once again, his bio is so long it won't fit here, but there is plenty of info on the web for those interested in this seminal musician.You need to dive into this artists work,It is the most vital.The result will be a distinctive, stimulating, and poignant voyage of discovery.A period of musical revolution of a man did live it.
TRY TRANSCRIBING..Lester Youngs "Lester Leaps In". Study his lines and shapes. In addition, keep in mind. Any of the common alterations via ii-V progressions above can be used when playing rhythm changes. You'll find tons of tunes that contain slight alterations to this basic progression, especially in the last four measures of the A sections. The most common alterations are to replace the second chord G7 with a diminished chord Bdim, or to replace the fifth chord Bbmaj7 with Dm7. The important characteristics of rhythm changes are the repeated I-VI-ii-V (or subs) in the first four bars of the A sections, and the basic tonality movements by fifths in the bridge, leading back to the original tonic in the last A section. If you intend to become an improvising musician, you should become fluent in the basic rhythm changes, particularly in the key of Bb, Db, F and even all other keys at times.Check out Lesters solo for starters as well- I bet you'll get some ideas and learn something,
On and off the bandstand, Lester "Prez" (for "President") Young was unique. His musical genius is well documented on recordings, but his eccentricities of speech and attire survive only in anecdotes and photographs and in the memory of those who knew him. Many jazz slang locutions, whose origins have since been obscured, were coined by Young (for example, "I feel a draft" for "I sense hostility"); his wide-brimmed porkpie hat was one of several sartorial trademarks, paralleled by such linguistic oddities as his habit of addressing everyone, man or woman, as "Lady" - followed by the person's last name. (Count Basie, then, would become "Lady Basie.") Unfortunately, this buoyant, creative genius was traumatized, and ultimately destroyed, by his experiences during World War II. The eldest of three children, Lester Willis Young was born on August 27, 1909, in Woodville, Mississippi, and shortly after his birth the family moved to Algiers, Louisiana, just across the river from New Orleans. The father, Willis H. Young, who had studied at Tuskegee Institute, musically tutored Lester, Lester's brother Lee (later a professional jazz drummer), and their sister Irma. Lester was taught trumpet, alto saxophone, violin, and drums. Young's parents divorced in 1919, and the father moved with the children to Minneapolis in 1920; there he married a woman saxophonist and formed a family band, in which Young played alto sax and drums as the band toured the larger Midwestern cities. But Young, unwilling to tour the South, left the band in 1927. For the next five years he worked with a variety of Midwestern bands, including the Original Blue Devils and King Oliver's Band. In 1934 he replaced Coleman Hawkins, the reigning tenor saxophone king, with the famous Fletcher Henderson band, but his lightness of tone on the instrument was ridiculed as "wrong" by the band's other musicians, and after a few months the sensitive Young quit the band. Gunther Schuller notes that when Young put down his tenor, the influential jazz artist and part-time tragic hero “played a cheap metal clarinet that he picked up somewhere on his travels, but whose tone he loved dearly.” Young kept the signature lightness of his sax on the smaller horn, and at fast tempos would use the same triplets and encircling, never inundating lines for the “little stories” he had to tell.
There are many good articles on Lester Young, but none better than pianist Bobby Scott's insightful "The House in the Heart" in Gene Lees' Jazzletter (September 1983). There are a number of biographies, American and European: Luc Delannoy's Lester Young. Profession: Président (Paris:1987); Vittorio Franchini's Lester Young (Milan: 1961); Dave Gelly's Lester Young (England: 1984); Lewis Porter's Lester Young (1985); and probably the most definitive, Frank Buchmann Moller's You Just Fight for Your Life: The Story of Lester Young (1990, translated from the Danish by John Irons). John Clellon Holmes' 1959 novel The Horn, a fictionalized biography of Lester in his last years, offers an intimate and moving look at a man in despair. Additional Sources Delannoy, Luc, Pres: the story of Lester Young, Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1993.Gelly, Dave, Lester Young, Tunbridge Wells: Spellmount; New York: Hippocrene Books, 1984.Porter, Lewis, Lester Young, Boston, Mass.: Twayne Publishers, 1985.
Let me suggest a current Prez favorite- PREZ AND TEDDY. Amazing.Terrific.Outstanding.Great.Essential.ETC,etc. This extraordinary 1956 record by Lester Young has to figure in everyone's discotheque.A real must.Here is a quartet you can dream of: Lester,Teddy Wilson on piano,Gene Ramey on bass and the Master,the greatest jazz drummer of all times, Jo Jones.(don't confuse him with Philly Joe Jones).1956.Pres is 47,and three years ,two months and a couple of days later,he died at 49. Pres swings like he did twenty years before;maybe he thinks of the Basie days;maybe he thinks of his fantastic works with the young Billie Holiday ("I'll never be the same","this years's kisses",...);here Pres is in top form,swinging like mad.The greatest tenor sax player of all times,and one of the five greatest jazz artists of all times gives here one of his most majestic record.Here is an immense moment of music.Pres' versions of "all of me","Louise","love me or leave me","taking a chance on love","love is here to stay" are essential moments in the art of playing ballads.The superlative support of Gene Ramey,Teddy Wilson (one of my favorite piano players;Art Tatum once said,"I wish I could play like Teddy Wilson"!!!)and Jo Jones,the most fantastic drummer of jazz,gives this recording session a kind of swing that is rarely heard.The sound of the recording is perfect,Jo Jones' brushes are,of course,the best ones ever heard,Teddy's choruses are perfect models for every jazz pianist,and Pres' choruses here rank among the most magnificent phrases ever blowed on saxophone.By the way,Pres (for President) was Lester Willis Young's nickname. This is a record I use to listen to for some twenty years;and I can listen to it each and every day,it won't be boring to me."Pres returns" is one of the best blues ever played.Seems like that day of January,1956,Lester recovered the feeling and happiness he had during the Basie days,at the end of the thirties.Don't miss this record,please,I'm sure it'll become a favorite of yours.Lester's here!!!
ANOTHER GEM- The important recordings on this CD are derived from sessions for the Lester Young Trio recorded in 1946. The trio is perfectly balanced. Prez is at the peak of his powers as is Nat Cole, recording as "Aye Guy." Prez and Nat Cole complement one another so well that one could argue that this is a classic collaboration for both musicians. Certainly, Young is as comfortable with Cole as he was with Teddy Wilson or Count Basie years earlier. The two derive obvious pleasure from one anothers' playing. The drummer is Buddy Rich whose pyrotechniques are understated, and his brush work is tasteful and appropriate throughout. This is great music from the bluesy "Back to the Land" to the upbeat "I've Found a New Baby." These recordings show why Young's tone and improvisational skills were the model for saxophone players. Prez swings throughout; the ballads are models of the genre. Cole's piano is lyrical, and his solos are precise statements, reminiscent of Earl Hines in their inventiveness and control. This is Nat Cole the pianist, before his apotheosis as vocalist. And he was among the best jazz pianists--as interesting as Bud Powell and the obvious model for such cats as Hank Jones, Ahmad Jamal, and Red Garland. These are excellent examples of Cole's playing. The solo on the second "I Cover the Waterfront" is elegantly tasteful. The interplay between Young and Cole is especially fine on this number, on "Somebody Loves Me," and "I Want to be Happy." The music is fine--masterful in the true sense of the word. This is an important collaboration--a valuable and important addition to any jazz library. For some reason, the disc has been expanded to include four tracks from a 1943 session featuring Dexter Gordon and trumpet player Harry "Sweets" Edison with Nat Cole. Good music, but I'm not sure why it's on this CD, except for Cole's playing and the obvious example of Young's influence on Gordon. Nevertheless, Young and Cole are masterful in the first ten tracks- you can never hear enough of this.Cool cover art too. Prez lives!
Lester Young.What more can I say ? He was the most incredible jazz player of all times,no one will ever play that way ever. Till next week...strive for tone....keep it Ivey Divey gates. ~ Tim Price

1 comment:

  1. Tim:

    Well you did it again, another really great article. Happy Birthday to Lester 'Prez' Young. He was the Father of the Cool School influencing everyone, not just sax players. Even some of the guys who played with a harder sound were influenced by his lines and sense of melodic playing, playing across the bar line and his swing.

    Many of those recordings you mention are in my collection on either CD or tape. People need to go back and listen to him. He was a GREAT MUSICIAN. I also have some of those recording he did on clarinet in the late 30's with the small group, more GEMS.

    FYI - In a book about Jazz I have the interview he did with Francois Postif in Paris shortly before he died. It was his last trip to Paris in the late 50's.

    Well take care and remember Prez Lives!! As Brew More the tenor player who left the US to play out his days in Sweden once said. "If your not playing Prez your not playing."