Lester Young

The Complete Aladdin Recordings

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Although it has often been written that cool-toned tenor saxophonist Lester Young's experiences with racism in the military during 1944-1945 so scarred him that he never played at the same musical level as he had previously, the music on this essential two-CD reissue disproves that theory. It is true that his attitude toward life was affected and Young became somewhat self-destructive, but his postwar solos rank with the greatest work of his career. This two-fer, which has four selections from 1942 in which Young is heard in a trio with pianist Nat King Cole and bassist Red Callender and a rare 1945 session headed by singer Helen Humes (including a previously unknown instrumental "Riffin' Without Helen"), is mostly taken up with Young's very enjoyable 1945-1948 small-group dates. Highlights include "D.B. Blues," "Jumpin' with Symphony Sid" (which was a minor hit), "Sunday," and "New Lester Leaps In," among many others. Minor errors aside (trumpeter Snooky Young is left out of the personnel listing for the Humes date and Young's final Aladdin session is from 1948, not 1947), this is a well-conceived and brilliant set filled with exciting performances by one of the true greats of jazz.

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