JazzTimes 10: Lester Young

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

7. Lester Young Trio: “Somebody Loves Me” (Lester Young Trio, Mercury, 1951 [originally recorded spring 1946])

It would be hard for anyone to resist the irrepressibility of both the Gershwin melody and the rhythm section—pianist Nat Cole and drummer Buddy Rich. On the one hand, Young doesn’t resist them at all, and the spring in his step is apparent. On the other, though, there’s a new weight to his playing in his first of two solos, a gravitas that would only grow more prominent over the years. (Perhaps in 1946 it merely seemed that way, placed as he was next to musicians 10 years younger than he; there’s certainly no shortage of joie de vivre in Cole’s solo.) But Pres is still Pres; his melody and swing are intact, the blues is still everywhere, and by the time of his second solo he seems to have shaken off whatever mood had struck him on the first one.

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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.