The Lester Young Story

LABELS: Proper
ALBUM TITLE: Lester Young
PERFORMER: Lester Young (ts), with various groups


The Lester Young Story begins with what was, in effect, one of the most celebrated recording debuts in jazz history: the Chicago Jones-Smith Incorporated quintet date in 1936 that pushed an apparently fully formed Lester Young on the scene.

It ends with a fascinating 1949 Jazz at the Philharmonic date juxtaposing the mature Young with the pretender to the jazz-saxophone crown, Charlie Parker.

In between, it provides a consistently intriguing record of the most productive years of a man whose direct musical influence can be heard in the playing of the likes of Stan Getz and Zoot Sims.

From the pleasingly informal yet drum-tight, riff-based Basie-band music that provided the majority of Young’s settings in his late Twenties and early Thirties, to the sophisticated small-group standards-and-blues sessions of the Forties, the set documents all facets of the tenorman’s extraordinary art.

The celebrated floating approach to ballads; his near-miraculous rapport with vocalists; his surprisingly powerful, driving approach to up-tempo material – above all, the sweetly logical musicality of his solos – Lester Young’s sound is the quintessence of ‘hip’: insouciant, apparently effortless, but packed with wholly individual melodic and rhythmic felicities.


The Lester Young Story provides an indispensable (and astonishingly reasonably priced) introduction to the work of a true jazz legend. Chris Parker