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Lester Swings

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Album Review

In selecting a little over an hour's worth of excerpts from the eight-CD box set The Complete Lester Young Studio Sessions on Verve for this highlights disc, the compilers have resisted the urge to stick with only a collection of Young's more accomplished early works and included a few examples of his deteriorated, but still moving, later work. They have hedged their bets somewhat, however, by not sequencing things chronologically, so that the album closes with a 1949 recording of the pop song "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" rather than, say, "Waldorf Blues" from 1958. Early or late, Young's playing is readily identifiable, if only for the chances it takes, whether on the up-tempo "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" or the strikingly excessive introductory blowing on the opening phrases of "Love Is Here to Stay." Young's associates on the tracks constitute a who's who of his contemporaries, including Ray Brown, Nat "King" Cole, Hary "Sweets" Edison, Roy Eldridge, Herb Ellis, Hank Jones, Jo Jones, Connie Kay, John Lewis, Oscar Peterson, Buddy Rich, and Teddy Wilson. While it takes more than an hour to get a full sense of Young's work on Verve (hence the box set), this is an intelligently constructed sampler.

Biography

Born: 28 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)...
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