Jose Reyes

Jose Reyes

Here comes “The Pres” playlist

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Yeah I know, where the Lester Young playlist? Two reasons, first of all Jazz Con Class concentrates from Hard Bop (early 50’s) and to the very early 70’s. Secondly and most importantly, Jazz Con Class concentrates on broadcasting quality remastered jazz. There are many great jazz musicians who have been neglected in this respect and because of this, I cannot feature more jazz giants of the past. Lester Young is one of those but I made a big find of great quality music from “The Pres” himself and will be sharing it with all the listeners. This man was the smoothest tenor saxophonist, in my opinion. His improvising style of playing also made him the most influential jazz musician and laid the foundation for those who led the Bebop charge. You can hear a strong influence of his style whenever listening to Charlie Parker. Check for the “The Pres” playlist on the Schedule link, ENJOY!

Lester Young Biography:

b. Lester Willis Young, 27 August 1909, Woodville, Mississippi, d. 15 March 1959, New York City, New York.

Born into a musical family, Lester Young was taught many instruments by his father while growing up.  As a child, he played the drums in his father’s band.  By age 19 however, he quit the group and began playing the tenor saxophone.  His first engagements with the new instrument were with Art Bronson of Phoenix, Arizona.  After a two year tenure with Bronson along with brief work with various other bands, Young joined the Original Blue Devils under the leadership of Walter Page in 1932.  However, Young finally settled down in Kansas City at the end of 1933 and played in bands with the likes of Bennie Moten, George E. Lee, and Count Basie among others.  In 1936, he formally teamed up with Basie and would tour, broadcast, and record together for the next four years.

His partnership with Basie did not discourage Lester Young from pursuing other opportunities.  Young recorded in small groups directed by Teddy Wilson and appeared in classic record dates with Billie Holiday.  In the early 40s, he focused his playing in the Los Angles area by playing in and directing small groups with musicians such as Red Callender, Nat “King” Cole, and Al Sears.  During this period of his life, he returned briefly to the Count Basie Band and also worked alongside with Dizzy Gillespie.  In 1944, Lester Young was summoned for military service but was quickly discharged having spent part of his duty in the hospital and part in an army prison.  After his military stint, Young was filmed by Gjon Mili in the classic jazz short titled Jammin’ The Blues co-produced by Norman Granz.  In addition, he joined Granz’s Jazz At The Philharmonic package, and remained with the organization for many years.  Lester also led a variety of small groups for club and record dates as well as toured the USA and Europe.  Because of his deteriorating health condition, his musical decline was swift.  Although he continued to record and make concert and festival appearances, towards the end of his life, he lost the will to live and eventually died on 15 March 1959.

 As one of the most misunderstood figures in Jazz history and a major influence in creating an atmosphere for Bop music to flourish, Lester Young’s early and late career was often saddled with criticism.  In the early 1930s when Young began to emerge, the tenor saxophone was regarded as a forceful, barrel-toned, and potentially dominating instrument favored by Coleman Hawkins.  In the early years of Jazz, none of the saxophone family instruments were played with fervor and maintained a backline position.  Hawkins was the first to attempt and change the conception of the instrument.  His style of rich and resonant sound was copied by many imitators by not Lester Young.  When Young arrived on the scene, he favored a light, dry tone in contrast to Coleman Hawkins.  Many musicians and especially audience members disliked Young’s unique styles; only perceptive and appreciative listeners could decipher that Lester Young’s approach to jazz would be revolutionary and unparallel.

The solos he created for the Count Basie Band was simplistic yet magnificent at the same time.  On his first record date under the name of Jones-Smith Inc., Young’s performance especially his solos of “Shoe Shine Swing” and “Lady Be Good” were undisputed masterpieces.  He recorded other outstanding solos with the full Basie Band on “Honeysuckle Rose”, “Taxi War Dance”, and “Every Tub”.  In addition, his work in “Dickie’s Dream” and “Lester Leaps In” with the Kansas City Seven showed off his musical intellectual prowess and the grasp he had of his distinctive style…..Learn More

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