The Lester Young Story (4CD) Box set
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Lester Young Story 1936-1940 (Jazz Archives No. 48)
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This four CD set presents the life and times of LESTER YOUNG, the most influential jazz musician after Louis Armstrong and before John Coltrane and Charlie Parker. Prez inspired an army of sax players including Stan Getz and Ronnie Scott. Hear the real article in over four hours of tenor magic featuring Lester from his earliest recording through the Basie band with Billie Holiday, in his own group and right up to the Jazz At The Philharmonic period. Includes material with Buck Clayton, Benny Goodman, Nat King Cole, Buddy Rich and more. 84 tracks, over four hours of music, 52 page fully illustrated booklet.
The Lester Young Story is a masterly selection from the work of a great tenor saxophonist, excellently packaged, with an informative booklet. This four-disc box set of classic recordings follows his career from his very first session, a small band date with Count Basie in 1936, to a star-studded live concert with, among others, Charlie Parker, Roy Eldridge, Buddy Rich, in 1949. This isn't the whole story, of course, because Young lived and worked for a further 10 years, but it covers the period when he was at the height of his powers and is packed with glorious music.
To pick out just a few gems--there is the amazing "Lady Be Good"; the record that first announced his arrival to an astonished jazz world and five numbers in which he partners the young Billie Holiday with exquisite delicacy and taste. Elsewhere there are most of his show-stopping solos with Basie's band, in numbers like "Tickle Toe"; and "Taxi War Dance" and a generous selection from his informal small-band sessions with players such as Buck Clayton, Dickie Wells and Charlie Christian, including a rare extract from the soundtrack of the movie Jammin' The Blues. The last disc consists of tracks from Young's early post-war career, when, unlike many of his contemporaries, he was enjoying the stimulus provided by the younger generation of bebop musicians. Because the tracks are arranged in chronological order, it is fascinating to follow Lester through his life during these 13 years and hear him responding to the rapidly changing world around him. The 15 months he spent in the US army affected him badly, but they certainly did not destroy his talent, as some commentators have claimed. The final, joyful rendition of "Lester Leaps In" with Charlie Parker and the Jazz At The Philharmonic team proves that beyond a doubt.--Dave Gelly
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Four CDs of epoc making music for the price of a couple of take-away pizzas!
I probably like best the small group recordings of the second disc (Afternoon of a Basieite), especially the ones with Charlie Christian, totally melodic and swinging like the clappers.
There are also a number of novelty vocals (Blitzkrieg Baby etc) which show Pres earning a living in a quite unworthy environment but still coming up with innovative, ear bending solos.
An absolute must for every serious jazzers collection.
Thank you Proper Records.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Lester Young turned the tide of jazz toward a more laconic, laid-back style, and ultimately toward bebop. But until he began to fade in the late 1950s he was one of America's unsung geniuses. It is amazing how few people -- even some musicians -- have heard of him today. You really must, if you haven't!!
These are the tracks that only a few got to hear in their day. Listen to him on the tracks with Benny Goodman and guitarist Charlie Christian -- Ad Lib Blues, I Never Knew, etc. The entire structure of "Lester Leaps Again" with Basie and his rhythm section is breathtaking. So is his floating entry into "Way Down Yonder In New Orleans" -- i.e., IF ITS THE MASTER TAKE. Does punk, or hard rock or any of today's popular musics have anyone with this genuinely original style. Frank Sinatra would not have had the sense of timing that became his by the 1950s had Pres not shown the way in the 1930s. Listen to his haunting, sexy, loving phrases behind Billie Holiday toward the end of "Me Myself and I" and you will have witnessed someone at the peak of an American art that few have scaled -- even in their own fields. His solo on Basie's "One O'Clock Jump" is a classic.
Reviewer Mahlser has got to spend some more time on the other three disks -- and then with all the Clef and Verve sessions that followed. He'll get it. And you should have this set at home, for yourself, for your kids and grandkids. Visitors will love it too. Oh yes, I recommend this set!!
Lester Young's solo on Ad-Lib Blues with the Benny Goodman octet is worth the price of admission alone. Lester's solo breaks are amazing! The harmonic sophistication and "badness" Lester communicates on this track makes him sound 20 years ahead of his time. Ascending and descending minor thirds in half steps, swinging relentlessly, call to mind Jackie McLean or Wayne Shorter as opposed to Benny Goodman. If one doubted Lester Young was a genius before, this set should put to rest any doubts.
It is not overstating the case to say that without Lester Young modern jazz would sound entirely different. Charlie Parker was heavily influenced by Young. Thus, without Lester Young, the primary genius behind the evolution of Bebop would have sounded entirely different, or worse still, would have gone uninspired. Ornithology, a famous Parker tune, is quite evidently inspired by one of Young's solos.
This set is a great example of Lester Young and a wonderful introduction to his playing for the price. If the price is not prohibitive for you, I also recommend The Complete Lester Young Studio Sessions on Verve. I sadly do not own this box set, but I have many of the albums that comprise it. I know some think that the later Lester Young is not as worth listening to as the earlier. I disagree.
A relationship with the music of Lester Young will enrich your life. You should buy this set.
The whole idea of purchasing a box set is getting the chance to immerse yourself in an artist's music. To be disappointed that all tracks are not of equal caliber - or equally to your taste - is to completely miss the point, what you have is the full context. (Disc 1 alone is worth the price of the set.) That Young played with so many other greats of his day adds enormously to the fun, and the insight.
For tone, phrasing, lyricism, and sheer polish it is impossible to top Young. Roaming around in this sprawling 4-CD retrospective will help you appreciate that what we think of as jazz today would be impossible without his contribution. All the great players that followed owe him at least some of their lunch money. After that realization has occurred, you'll keep returning to this collection simply because his playing is absolutely exquisite. Young, even at his worst, is still better than just about anyone else.