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August 2008

Lester Young with Count Basie
Classic Columbia, OKeh and Vocalion Lester Young with Count Basie (1936-1940)
Mosaic Records

The four-CD limited-edition boxed set from Mosaic, Classic Columbia, OKeh and Vocalion Lester Young with Count Basie (1936-1940), celebrates the Basie Orchestra of 1939-40 and its innovative tenor saxophonist Lester Young. Compared with the tough-toned, harmonically complex and rhythmically predictable tenor Coleman Hawkins, Young sounds like he was playing a different instrument altogether. His floating cool tone, relaxed style and subtle yet subversive improvisations point toward the cool jazz of the 1950s. This box includes the four titles (plus one alternate) from the 1936 Jones-Smith Incorporated session that resulted in Young’s absolutely perfect solo on “Lady Be Good,” all of the Basie big-band titles from 1939-40 that feature spots for the tenor, and a few small-group dates, including a meeting with Benny Goodman and Charlie Christian in the BG Septet. While most of the performances have been available for decades, 13 recently discovered alternate takes from Nov. 6-7, 1939 (all with spots for Young), make this an essential acquisition even for those Lester Young and Count Basie fanatics who already have the other material.

Originally published in August 2008
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