While legendary as a saxophonist, his first instrument was a violin and his second the piano — which he played well enough to work as an accompanist to silent movies. Ultimately it was Lester Young’s father who taught him the saxophone well enough that he switched instruments for good. (It was during this time that he also saved Lester from drowning in a river). Who is he?
Go to the next page for the answer!...
June 13th, 2018
Having just published Arya Jenkins’ excellent new short story “Foolish Love,” in which Billie Holiday’s music plays a central role in the life of the story’s main character, this piece, excerpted from Bill Crow’s 1990 book, Jazz Anecdotes, is a wonderful reminder of how Ms. Holiday became known as “Lady Day.” The story is set up by Crow and stories about nicknames created by “Prez.”
Lester Young made up names for many of his friends, and everyone used them. He called Count Basie “The Holy Man,” (shortened by the band to “Holy”) because he was the...
June 9th, 2017
In Martin Torgoff’s brilliant new book Bop Apocalypse — an extensive exploration of the connections of jazz, literature and drugs, and how drugs impacted the lives and work of people like Charlie Parker, Jack Kerouac, Lester Young, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg — Torgoff devotes a chapter to Billie Holiday’s struggle with drug abuse, and the public airing of it when her 1956 autobiography Lady Sings the Blues was published.
While her book had errors that have since caused critics and biographers to cast doubt on the book’s veracity, as Torgoff writes, in many respects, “the book is remarkably frank about her early years in Baltimore and her time as a prostitute. It is also replete with information about her...
March 30th, 2017
“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition tells the story of Lester Young getting high with Jack Kerouac, and his overall influence on his generation...
March 4th, 2017
Throughout his career, this saxophonist was known as the “Vice Prez” because he sounded so similar to Lester Young. Who was he?
Go to the next page for the answer!...
January 13th, 2016
In his 1993 book Upside Your Head! Rhythm and Blues on Central Avenue, the jazz and blues musician and impresario Johnny Otis writes primarily about the music scene in Los Angeles during the 40’s and 50’s. Otis — who discovered the likes of Big Mama Thornton, Jackie Wilson and Etta James, and who is considered one of the most prominent white figures in the history of R & B — also devotes substantial portions of his book to the toxic white racism so prevalent in American entertainment in the first half of the 20th Century.
The following excerpt — which begins and ends with an homage to Otis friend Lester Young — describes the experience of...
January 26th, 2015
Sometimes he was cool like an eternal
blue flame burning in the old Kansas
Sometimes he was happy ’til he’d think
about his birth place and its blood
stained clay hills and crow-filled trees
Most times he was blowin’ on the wonderful
tenor sax of his, preachin’ in very cool
June 30th, 2014
Lester Young was the “Pres.” Who became known as the “Vice Pres?”
February 3rd, 2014
Jerry Jazz Musician presents a number of editions of “Masters of Jazz Photography,” featuring a work by one of the photographers featured in Lee Tanner’s The Jazz Image.
This edition: Bob Parent, featuring photos of Benny Goodman, Clifford Brown, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Billie Holiday and Lester Young...
December 17th, 2013
In cooperation with Lee Tanner, author of The Jazz Image: Masters of Jazz Photography, Jerry Jazz Musician presents “Master of Jazz Photography,” featuring a work by one of the photographers featured in The Jazz Image.
This edition: Dennis Stock...
May 12th, 2007
Excerpted from Lester Leaps In: The Life and Times of Lester “Pres” Young, by Douglas Henry Daniels
(Lester) Young earned recognition for being not only a stylist but a saxophone “freak” – not a pejorative term at all but rather a comment on his unparalleled virtuosity. He “could make a note anywhere” on his instrument. Certain notes were usually produced by depressing specific keys or combinations of keys on the saxophone (or valves on the trumpet and cornet), but “freaks” found ways to defy convention and orthodoxy by means of “false fingerings” and adjustments of the mouth and lips, or embouchure. The trombonist-guitarist Eddie Durham explained that “Coleman Hawkins and Chu Berry and those guys, they fingered it correctly with what they were doing....
March 29th, 2004
More than four decades after her death, Billie Holiday remains one of the most gifted artists of our time, and also one of the most elusive. Because of who she was and how she chose to live her life, Holiday has been the subject of both intense adoration and wildly distorted legends....
June 24th, 2002
ester Young was jazz music’s first hipster. He performed onstage in sunglasses and coined and popularized the enigmatic slang “that’s cool” and “you dig?” He was a snazzy dresser who always wore a suit and his trademark porkpie hat. He influenced everyone from B. B. King to Stan Getz to Allen Ginsberg. When he died, he was the subject of musical tributes by Charles Mingus (“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”) and Wayne Shorter (“Lester Left Town”), and incidents from his life were featured in the movie ‘Round Midnight....
February 14th, 2002