Harry Edison, Lester Young: Going For Myself

Reissue of Lester Young in 1957/58 is testament to his final incompetence, where willpower and invention are defeated by shortage of breath


EJC has a fine catalogue and here reissues one of Young’s last studio albums, originally on Verve. It was recorded a year or so before Norman Granz went to live in Switzerland. I doubt that he authorised it.

It has Lester at his most incapable with a confining shortage of breath. We’ve all heard Lester towards the end of his life, but only the non-Verve things done in Paris at the ultimate end are worse than these. This album is made the more bad because he still has his wits about him, and can be heard reaching for good ideas but not making them.

Because Prez plays so feebly, Peterson keeps his volume low, perhaps hoping to give his friend a lift. It doesn’t really work. In vivid contrast Edison is able to play normally and very well. But every breath that comes out of Lester draws one’s attention to a handicap so large that it would normally keep him from recording. It’s impossible.

With respect to our friends at EJC it would have been better if they’d overlooked the album.

(1) Flic; Love Is Here To Stay; St Tropez; (2) Waldorf Blues; Sunday; You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me; (1) Ballad Medley – Ghost Of A Chance/I Cover The Waterfront; Perdido; St Tropez (alt); You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me (alt); Waldorf Blues (alt) (76.13)
Edison (t); Young (ts, cl) with:
(1) Oscar Peterson (p); Herb Ellis (elg); Ray Brown (b); Louie Bellson (d). Hollywood, 31 July 1957.
(2) Lou Stein (p); Ellis (elg); Brown (b); Mickey Sheen (d). NYC, 7 February 1958.
Essential Jazz Classics EJC 55779