Being Prez: The Life and Music of Lester Young

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Oxford University Press, Oct 18, 2007 - Music - 192 pages
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Lester Young was one of the great jazz masters, and his impact on the course of the art form was profound. He fundamentally changed the way the saxophone was played--his long, flowing lines brought new levels of expressiveness and subtlety to the jazz language, setting the standard for all modern players. In Being Prez, renowned British critic Dave Gelly follows Lester Young through his life in a rapidly changing world, showing how the music of this exceptionally sensitive man was shaped by his experiences. The reader meets a complicated, vulnerable, gentle individual who was brought up in his father's traveling carnival band. His early career was spent in the nightclubs and dancehalls of Kansas City and the Southwest, and he made his landmark recording debut at the peak of the Swing Era. But at the height of his powers, he was drafted into the US Army, where racism and his own unworldliness landed him in military prison. Following these events, Young grew increasingly withdrawn and suspicious, changes in his character reflected in the darkening mood of his music. Gelly, himself a jazz saxophonist, examines many of Young's classic recordings in illuminating detail. He reveals how as a saxophonist--and as major contributor to the Count Basie band--Young created a strong personal voice, a cool modernism, and a new rhythmic flexibility in the freely dancing rhythms of 4-beat swing. With his sax jutting oddly to one side, his bizarre oblique use of language, and his unique musical rapport with Billie Holiday (who famously nicknamed him "Prez"), Lester Young has become an icon and a cult figure. This marvelous biography illuminates the life and work of this giant of jazz.
 

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Contents

1 I just loved that music
1
2 The territory
17
3 Well okay So now well find out what happens
35
4 The hippest thing I ever heard
45
5 Jumpin at the woodside
57
6 Just jivin around
73
7 Jammin the blues
86
8 DB blues
99
10 Von Hangman is here
111
11 Prez returns
123
12 Lets review the books
131
13 IveyDivey
142
Notes
146
Select Discography
153
Index
157
Copyright

9 Jumpin at Mesners
105

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About the author (2007)

Dave Gelly is the weekly jazz critic for The Observer and contributes to many other British periodicals. Named Jazz Writer of the Year in the 1999 British Jazz Awards, Gelly has hosted a weekly radio show, has contributed to many books on jazz, has written liner notes for most major jazz record labels, and is the author of Stan Getz: Nobody Else But Me. He was invested with the MBE by HM The Queen in 2005. He is also professional saxophonist.

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