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Lester Young (Jazz Perspectives) Paperback – November 10, 2005
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Porter does a great job of transcribing and annotating several Young solos from different points in his career and explains with solid scholarship exactly what Young was doing and some of the whys. Porter is not among those who dismiss Lester's later work with the cliche about all the best stuff being before WWII. Instead he breaks Young's career into three periods and examines each fairly. There are some gaps in his discography, i.e.,the session with Oscar Peterson, but that may be due to the original publication date pre-dating the advent of CDs.
Charlie Parker's idol and cited as a major influence by nearly every jazz saxophonist to follow him, Lester Young was indeed the President of the Saxophone.
Take for example the solo he did with Count Basie on Lady, Be Good. It is something new, something he created, it sounds like a real breakthrough, like music has been pushed to a new level. Worthy of further study. Or dig how modern Prez sounds on I Didn't Know What Time It Was. You can see several different versions of many standards, done years apart, showing the evolving sound. For instance, Just You, Just Me, the earliest version is so classic, but the later version at a quicker tempo is an interesting comparison.
Besides the transcriptions and discography, the prose is good, too. I like the writing, as it seems like it was written by a musician, with a great understanding of the music, and also a musical way of writing.
First, although Porter wisely includes some biographical material, this is not a biography of Lester Young. Rather, it is mainly a very detailed and somewhat technical analysis of Young's music. Porter explains his methodology as follows: "I examined all of Young's recorded solos, including all bootleg issues and some unissued private tapes. I then selected a sample of thirty-four solos to examine more closely and subjected them to an array of analytical procedures, including computer analysis."
The chapters presenting many of these 34 solos require musical notation to present the transcriptions from Young's many recordings. For someone like myself, whose musical education relies upon what is recalled from high school band, these passages in the text proved difficult to fully appreciate. I am quite certain, however, that a trained musician would find no problem understanding these transcribed passages.
Since part of Porter's purpose in analyzing Young's music is to identify what the author refers to as "formulas," i.e. recurring patterns of notes that can be improvised upon and slightly altered with each performance, the ability to read musical scores takes on a central importance in fully comprehending the book's major themes.
Although I feel certain that a large portion of the book's analysis was beyond my limited understanding of music and its technical terminology, I learned from those sections where Porter wrote in fairly clear prose without much musical notation.Read more ›