What are you looking for LP OR CD
8 responses Add your response
How great to see someone express an interest in Lester Young (nicknamed "The President", or "Pres", by Billie Holiday). Lester Young was the most notable soloist for the Count Basie Band during the 1930's and early 1940's, when he established one of the two stylistic "schools" of tenor sax (the other stylistic "school" derived from the playing of Coleman Hawkins).
In response to your request for recommendations about Lester's recordings, a few introductory comments are first necessary. Many jazz critics think that Lester did his best work prior to World War II, since his brief stint of military service was apparently damaging to him emotionally and psychologically. I think that's a bit of an overstatement, as Pres still did some excellent work during the 10-12 years after WWII.
Tower Records lists 404 CD titles for Lester Young, so sorting through them to cull the best can be vexing. The following recommended recordings are all available online from Tower Records:
1. The Count Basie recordings from 1935-1940 have some excellent solos by Lester, and there are several good CD reissues of these recordings. I think the reissue of choice is titled "Count Basie: The Complete Decca Recordings", a 3-CD set with a good booklet included. This set was released by GRP, and its catalog number is GRD-3-611.
2. Count Basie, Lester Young, and 5 other members of Count Basie's band had a small group called The Kansas City 7, which recorded some legendary sides for the Commodore record label. I recommend the CD box set called "The Kansas City Sessions: Commodore Records".
3. About 10 years ago, Mercury Records reissued a group of Lester's recordings done for Keynote Records. The reissue CD, titled "The Essential Keynote Collection: The Complete Lester Young" (Mercury 830 920-2) has some wonderful work by Lester.
4. Time-Life issued a series of LP sets during the 1980's called "Giants of Jazz". If you have an analog front end, you should check with used record stores to find the Lester Young "Giants of Jazz" 3-LP set. It not only has great music, but it includes a large booklet on Lester and the featured selections. (This Lester Young set may have been re-issued on CD under the title "Lester Swings: Giants of Jazz". Not sure about this, though.)
5. Lester made a small number of recordings for Savoy Records which are well worth hearing. The Savoy sides are available on CD under the title "The Complete Savoy Recordings".
6. As part of his PBS series on jazz, Ken Burns issued a series of CD's featuring the major jazz figures seen in his documentary. As an inexpensive introductory CD, you might check out the "Ken Burns Jazz Collection: Lester Young".
7. Lester also made some very good recordings for Aladdin Recordings, which have been re-issued as a 2-CD set with the name "Lester Young: The Complete Aladdin Recordings".
8. Norman Granz, the jazz entrepreneur who owned and operated the record labels NorGran and Verve, featured Lester on many of his recordings. These recordings began in the late 1940's with the "Jazz at The Philharmonic" series, and continued into the mid-1950's on the Verve label. I don't have any specific recommendations, but a search for either the JATP or Lester Young on the Verve label should be sufficient.
9. Lester did some stunning work playing as the primary accompanist to Billie Holiday. Their work together was magical. A CD set of their work that is quite good is "Billie Holiday / Lester Young: Complete 1937-1946 Recordings".
10. Finally, if you want to hear some of Lester's very last recordings prior to his death, there are 5 CD's that were recorded live when Lester did a club appearance in Washington, DC. Look for the titles that say something like "Lester Young in Washington, DC" -- I think they were done in either 1956 or 1957.
Hope these suggestions prove helpful.
Best regards, and good listening!
I had a wonderful LP of Lester on Verve, where he played the most beautiful and breathy clarinet on as many tracks that he played sax. It was no compilation, but a reissue of an old original LP. Since that collection (nearly 2,000 records) was stolen about 18 years ago, I have never been able to track down the title so that I could get another. That and a much loved chamber music LP by Camerata Bern were the two favourites from that collection that I have failed to replace despite very many hours of hunting. Does anyone have any ideas?
Than you very much to all of you guys for responding. B1cube, yes I'm into CD's. Bomarc, I'll try to find that Verve #30 CD this weekend. Redkiwi, thank you, I guess I really have to get into vinyl one of these days. Lastly, "Prof. SdCampbell", as usual, your recommendations I considered as treasures. I always copy your response to threads about jazz and compile them. Your "Best" list for 2001 and 2002 were superb. I too am a long time jazz fan and really learning a lot from you. I started listening to jazz vinyls from my uncle's collection since I was 10 years old (I'm 35 now) trying to read and understand each liner notes from the album. I thought I'm well versed in jazz topics but after discovering your insights regarding jazz, its evolution, history and progress, I'm not worthy!!! Till next.