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Lester Young Instruments and Hat to Be Donated to Smithsonian

The Young family will say goodbye to the President's porkpie hat at a Feb. 22 concert in Washington

Lester Young
Lester Young at the Famous Door, New York, September 1946 (photo: William P. Gottlieb Collection/Library of Congress)

As part of a concert on February 22 by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (SJMO), the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History will receive a donation of four artifacts from the family of jazz icon Lester Young.

Lester Young Jr., the tenor saxophone legend’s son, will present three of Young’s instruments—two Conn saxophones and a Dolnet clarinet—and a porkpie hat (Young’s sartorial trademark) to NMAH director Anthea M. Hartig and Division of Culture and Community Life curator Theodore S. Gonzalves just prior to the performance. The artifacts will become a part of the Smithsonian’s jazz collection, one of the largest in the United States.

The evening’s concert will also pay tribute to Young. An octet drawn from the SJMO’s membership will perform “‘The President’: Music and Legacy of Lester (Prez) Young,” a program that draws from three decades of Young’s music, including his work with Count Basie and Billie Holiday.

The SJMO is the orchestra in residence at the Smithsonian Institution, the only jazz ensemble in the United States whose creation was authorized by an act of Congress. Directed by Charlie Young, the orchestra is charged with spotlighting the work of jazz’s most important American masters, with special attention given to those artists whose legacy is represented within the Smithsonian’s collection.

The Lester Young donation ceremony and tribute concert will take place on February 22 in the NMAH’s Nicolas F. and Eugenia Taubman Hall of Music.

Read our JazzTimes 10 list of classic Lester Young recordings.