The Tragedy and Triumph of Lester Young
Of all the wise things Lester Young was heard to have said, this might be his epitaph:
“IT’S GOT TO BE SWEETNESS, MAN, YOU DIG? SWEET-NESS CAN BE FUNKY, FILTHY, OR ANYTHING. BUT WHICH PART DO YOU WANT?”
In writing this piece, I am not really trying to convince anybody that what I say about Lester Young is true. I merely hope to get a few people (maybe just one person) to really listen to his post- war work, to try to get into it, and hear what he’s doing. One can’t listen to Lester the way you listen to other jazz musicians. You have to listen very carefully or you won’t get anything at all. The question is not how Prez sounds in terms of traditional criteria; the issue is: Do you get it? Does he speak to you? He speaks to me.
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