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Lester Young

Born: August 27, 1909 | Died: March 15, 1959    Primary Instrument: Saxophone

Lester Young

Lester “Prez” Young was one of the giants of the tenor saxophone. He was the greatest improviser between Coleman Hawkins and Louis Armstrong of the 1920s and Charlie Parker in the 1940s. From the beginning, he set out to be different: He had his own lingo; In the Forties, he grew his hair out. The other tenor players held their saxophones upright in front of them, so Young held his out to the side, kind of like a flute (see picture above). Then, there was the way he played: Hawkins played around harmonic runs. He played flurries of notes and had a HUGE tone that the other tenor players of the day emulated. Young used a softer tone that resulted In a soft, light sound (if you didn't know better, you would think the two were playing different instruments). Young used less notes and slurred notes together, creating more melodic solos. He played the ordinary in an extraordinary way, using a lot of subtleties to produce music that Billie Holiday said flips you out of your seat with surprise....
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