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Lester Leaps In: The Life and Times of Lester “Pres” Young by Douglas Henry Daniels

This book about Lester Young is among the more unusual jazz biographies ever written. Author Douglas Henry Daniels teaches history and black studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara; he’s not a musicologist, jazz historian or critic. Daniels believes that Young, as a musician and personality, has been misunderstood and aims to shed new light on him. Moreover, he “felt obliged to write a sympathetic portrait because I believe it would permit a better understanding of my subject than any other kind of approach.” Well, it’s certainly understandable that Daniels would want to write sympathetically about Young, who was among the greatest jazz artists and seemingly a very likeable, witty human being.

Lester Leaps In took over 20 years to complete, and Daniels obviously put a great deal of work into it, interviewing dozens of people, including Young’s family members, friends and fellow musicians, digging through city directories and combing old newspaper files. He organizes Lester Leaps In chronologically, beginning with his family background.

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