To pick out just a few gems: the amazing "Lady Be Good," the record that first announced Young's arrival to an astonished jazz world, and five numbers in which he partners the young Billie Holiday with exquisite delicacy and taste. Elsewhere, there are most of his show-stopping solos with Basie's band, in numbers like "Tickle Toe" and "Taxi War Dance," and a generous selection from his informal small-band sessions with players such as Buck Clayton, Dickie Wells, and Charlie Christian, including a rare extract from the soundtrack of the 1944 movie Jammin' the Blues.
The last disc consists of tracks from Young's early post-war career, when, unlike many of his contemporaries, he was enjoying the stimulus provided by the younger generation of bebop musicians. Because the tracks are arranged in chronological order, it is fascinating to follow him through his life during these 13 years and hear him responding to the rapidly changing world around him. The 15 months he spent in the U.S. Army affected him badly, but they certainly did not destroy his talent, as some commentators have claimed. The final, joyful rendition of "Lester Leaps In" with Charlie Parker and the Jazz at the Philharmonic team proves that beyond a doubt. --Dave Gelly