Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Happy 105th Birthday, Lester Willis Young (1909-1959)

Today is the birthday of arguably the greatest instrumentalist to ever play jazz, Count Basie's go-to guy, saxophonist and clarinetist Lester Young, born on August 27, 1909.

Some music aficionados might argue that the "greatest" mantle would go to Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, Art Tatum or possibly any number of luminaries quite a bit younger than Pres (Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and Miles Davis).

Others would accurately say, yeah - ALL of them are the greatest and don't forget Sidney Bechet, Bix Beiderbecke, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Christian, Teddy Wilson and Earl "Fatha" Hines while you're at it!

For this correspondent and music lover, nobody then or now comes close to the sweet sound of Lester Young a.k.a. "Pres".

Many attempted to imitate his musicality and out-of-the-box approach to life, but nobody succeeded. There's only one original.

Here's Pres and several bands jam-packed with virtuosos, sounding great.

While Lester's music provided some measure of comfort for millions around the world, during his lifetime and 55 years after his death, he suffered a great deal in his life. One hopes that Mr. Young found the peace and serenity which eluded him during his time here.

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