Lester Young


I don't like a whole lotta noise, no god damn way...I'm looking for something soft...I can't stand no loud shit, you dig? And the bitches come in the place in New York, and them trumpets be screaming and shit, them bitches put their fingers in their ears. You know? It's got to be sweetness man. Sweetness can be funky, flithy, anything

Interview, Paris, 1959

Lester Willis Young, nicknamed “Prez” was an American jazz tenor saxophonist credited with introducing an approach to improvisation that provided much of the basis for modern jazz solo conception. He came to prominence in Count Basie’s orchestra, and became one of the most influential players of his instrument. He, unlike many of his peers, played with a relaxed, cool tone and used sophisticated harmonies. He was said to play in a “a free-floating style, wheeling and diving like a gull, banking with low, funky riffs that pleased dancers and listeners alike”. He continued to play with various groups and made several recordings. However, with his fame came a struggle with alcohol addiction. This eventually caught up with him, he passed away aged 44 in 1959. Young is said to have popularised the word ‘cool’ to mean something fashionable, and invented or popularised much other hipster jargon that became associated with jazz.