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Lester Young - Mean To Me (1958)

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Lester YoungWhen Young arrived on the major jazz scene in the mid-1930s the commanding presence of Coleman Hawkins dictated tenor saxophone style. Hawkins played with fierce intensity, investing every chorus (virtually every bar) with power and passion - the quintessential romantic. Young, on the other hand, was all light and air, velvety of tone, buoyantly disregarding bar lines, floating the rhythm effortlessly, attacking the melody obliquely, subtly rather than head-on. The difference between the two sensibilities is voluminously documented, but nowhere more clearly than on the original 1937 recording of Basie's theme, "One O'Clock Jump," on which Herschel Evans, a Hawkins disciple, leads off with a thrilling, hard-edged chorus and Lester later responds with an equally thrilling, marshmallow-toned solo. Thus was the Hawkins monolith toppled and replaced by the twin towers of Hawkins and Young - the two essential styles of jazz performance, hot and cool.

Video: Lester Young - Mean To Me (1958)

A rare Lester Young performance of "Mean To Me" on "Art Ford's Jazz Party", September 25, 1958. Broadcast by Danmarks Radio.Sound portion originally released as Enigma 301.

 

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