Lester Young: Blue Lester


Nineteen sublime Prez mid-period recordings, in pristine sound (but not chronological sequence) in the excellent Dreyfus Jazz Reference series.

Among the many highlights are Jump Lester Jump, and the haunting Blue Lester with Basie, Freddie Green, Rodney Richardson and Shadow Wilson offering sterling support. A wistful Polka Dots And Moonbeams (with Hank Jones, Ray Brown and Buddy Rich) contrasts with I Got Rhythm which placed an ebullient Lester in the robust company of Bill Coleman, Dicky Wells and Jo Jones.

In a succinct sleeve note Claude Carrière comments that Lester “with his head in the clouds, produced a light tone without vibrato, an extraordinary rhythmic licence with total ease in the expression of his melodic ideas which were beautiful yet simple and seemed to go beyond harmony and bar lines”.

All the tracks Prez made with the Nat King Cole Trio – The Man I Love, Back To The Land, I Want To Be Happy, Back Home Again In Indiana, I Can’t Get Started and Body And Soul – have their special delights – try the last-named (and longest) performance where Lester and Nat are in perfect accord. New to these ears, These Foolish Things with Dodo Marmarosa, Freddie Green, Red Callender and drummer Henry “Tucker Green” has Lester almost crying the melody. Sheer bliss! Enough said?

In sum, an invaluable Lestorian anthology that will repay repeated listening.

The Man I Love; These Foolish Things; Jump Lester Jump; Polka Dots And Moonbeams; Too Marvellous For Words; She’s Funny That Way; Just You, Just Me; (I Don’t Stand A) Ghost Of A Chance With You; I Never Knew; Blue Lester; Lester Leaps Again; Peg O’ My Heart; I Got Rhythm; Back To The Land; I Want To Be Happy; I’m Confessin’; (Back Home Again In) Indiana; I Can’t Get Started; Body And Soul (72.28).
Personnel includes: Lester Young (ts) on all tracks with: Nat King Cole, Dodo Marmarosa, Hank Jones, Joe Albany, Johnny Guarnieri, Count Basie (p); Bill Coleman (t); Dicky Wells (tb); Freddie Green (g); Red Callender (b); Buddy Rich, Shadow Wilson, Jo Jones, Sidney Catlett (d). Recorded Los Angeles and New York, 1943-1949.
Dreyfus Jazz 538476472