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In Washington, D.C., 1956, Vol. 1 (Live)

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Album Review

One of the great myths of jazz history is that by the final decade of his life, Lester Young was a burnout case, too drunk to stand up and play his horn, much less attain the creative flights of fancy that marked his groundbreaking work with Count Basie in the late '30s. But when these live recordings of Young playing with the Bill Potts Trio in Washington, D.C., were first released on LP in 1980, the jazz world had to re-evaluate its thinking. These privately recorded tapes revealed that not only was Prez far from being a broken shadow of his former self, he was blowing his heart out, obviously inspired by the playing of the trio behind him and the relaxed setting of the date itself. Kicking off with an uptempo take on "A Foggy Day," Young shows he's in full command of his chops, and the trio backs him buoyantly. Of the seven selections on this disc, Young contributes two blues of his own derivation, along with great readings of "When You're Smiling" and "Tea for Two," as well as a version of "I Can't Get Started with You" that rivals the live version cut as a member of the Jazz at the Philharmonic troupe in 1946. Those who dismiss his later work as uninspired will find this disc a revelation and a wonderful addition to his legacy.


Born: 27 August 1909 in Woodville, MS

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s

Lester Young was one of the true jazz giants, a tenor saxophonist who came up with a completely different conception in which to play his horn, floating over bar lines with a light tone rather than adopting Coleman Hawkins' then-dominant forceful approach. A non-conformist, Young (nicknamed "Pres" by Billie Holiday) had the ironic experience in the 1950s of hearing many young tenors try to sound exactly like him. Although he spent his earliest days near New Orleans, Lester Young lived in Minneapolis...
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