A great artist in his exuberant, "Basieish" youth, Lester Young often proved that in his mature years he could add to the subtlety and feeling, without sacrifising any of the rhythmical power. How could anyone ever have believed that his post WW-II years were a throwaway alltogether?
Here, propelled by Peterson's fine group, The Pres swings hard, starting with the mighty "Ad Lib Blues" but in the very next song, beautiful ballad "I Can't Get Started", shows the greatest strength of his playing on this CD. The name of the game is emotion, reached through melodic innovativeness and rhythmical subtlety.
Interestingly enough, in the company of a more emotional Teddy Wilson on another masterpiece from the 50's (Pres and Teddy , Young showed a more robust side (a bit more reminiscent of his Basie days, perhaps because of Jo Jones' magnificent drumming on that date), although he sure did show plenty of emotion when playing with Wilson and Billie Holiday back in the 30's...
But here, where the rhythmical support is stronger(and less emotionally original than Wilson's playing on the cited CD), Young's tender side really blooms. Even the songs such as "Just You, Just Me" or "(Back Home Again in) Indiana" are treated more like than ballads than joyous swing they usually bring about...
All in all, this CD, as others have rightly said can measure up with the best in the history of jazz.... Just listen to "These foolish things" or any other gem from this masterpiece...
Lester Young had his own way of doing things and because of that he was and still is hugely influential. His playing is both relaxed and cool whilst retaining a lyrical and creative edge. This is the real thing and no serious Jazz collector should over look it. Some say that Lester's golden age was somewhat earlier when he was playing in Basie's band - this proves, however, that he still had something to say in his post-army years. The Oscar Peterson band give some lovely support also - but this really is Lester's album. A nice bonus is 'It takes two to tango' where Lester's bawdy humour shines through. Priceless!!
For me this is a superbly tight and smooth performance by all concerned. The numbers are all standards and they are taken and developed wonderfully by both LP and OP. The sax is full and rich and there is a really intimate feeling about the whole CD. Lovely solos by Barney Kessel on guitar. It's a superb album which has been excellently remastered. RHC
Norman Granz made a habit of putting unlikely combinations of artists together. He often used Peterson in his early JATP days as almost the "house" rhythm section. This is one of those collaborations and it works perfectly with Young flitting in that transitory mainstream to post bop style that is almost impossible to categorise. He is lyrical where appropriate, powerful where appropriate, and always bluesy. A delightful "I can't get started", a super "On the sunny side of the street" where he breathes new life into the hackneyed old warhorse and a number of other class performances. Peterson is superb throughout, this is full of great melodies and blowing - and a slightly vulgar "Tea for Two" in which we have that unique event - Pres singing!! go buy
Although much of Lester's work in the fifties is seen to be inferior to the period before he was brutalised by army life, this album is one of many exceptions to that rule. Certainly, his performances became more erratic, but at his best his work is glowing with rich colour and irrepressible bounce. So it is here.
With the exception of 'Ad Lib Blues' which is taken at quite a lively and energetic lick, the bulk of this material generates that wonderfully mellow, smooth, 'feel good' factor of jazz ballads. Rich melody lines on the horn are then passed on to the piano, and float between warmly expressive bass and sensitive percussion, only to be picked up, subtly altered, by sax and piano once again.
If you're looking for some richly melodic, mellow jazz from the top bracket, you just can't go wrong with these musicians, playing at the top of their form. Really lovely stuff. If you enjoy this, or wish to explore Lester's work further, I'd urge you to investigate his 10cd bargain anthology Lester Leaps In This is perhaps one of the greatest-ever jazz bargains.