JazzTimes 10: Lester Young

Sixty years after his passing, we remember 10 of the President’s best recordings

2. Billie Holiday and Her Orchestra: “Without Your Love” (Billie Holiday + Lester Young: A Musical Romance, Columbia/Legacy, 2002 [originally recorded June 15, 1937])

Young’s recorded legacy with Billie Holiday began just weeks after the Jones-Smith session. “Without Your Love” is from their fourth studio outing together, and an exquisite example of the synergy shared between Pres and Lady Day (the nicknames they gave each other, which would be adopted by the wider jazz world). The saxophonist’s solo space comes at the very beginning of the record: three bars and change. From there his role becomes that of Holiday’s shadow. Each of her lines gets a silky-smooth underscore, and where Billie is a bit of a belter in these early days, Young’s phrases are cool and sinuous. Even as the track closes, and the other two horn players (trumpeter Buck Clayton and clarinetist Edmond Hall) throw some more juice into the mix, Young is relaxed, detached, and thoroughly beautiful.

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Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.