Lester Young

The Master's Touch [Savoy 1993]

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Conventional jazz wisdom holds that the recordings Lester Young made after his Army stint are those of a man who is merely a shell of his former highly creative self. Those wishing to fly in the face of that wisdom are hereby instructed to check out this 20-track compilation of recordings made for the Savoy label in 1944, along with four tracks from a 1949 session. Tracks like "Ding Dong," "Crazy Over Jazz," "Salute to Fats," and "Exercise In Swing" (all of which are presented here in multiple takes) show Prez to be in top creative form, playing at brisk tempos with no signs of a faltering technique. Count Basie appears on the 1944 session on a mellow version of "Ghost of a Chance" and a bouncy "Indiana," which also feature Shadow Wilson on drums and Freddy Green's impeccable rhythm guitar work. An April 1944 session finds Prez working in an almost Dixieland surrounding, with Billy Butterfield, Johnny Guarnieri, Hank D'Amico, and Cozy Cole providing the fireworks. A far more modern session from 1949 kicks thing off with Lester fronting a combo that features Junior Mance and Roy Haynes in the rhythm section and Jessie Drakes and Jerry Elliott making a very swinging two-man brass section. "Tush," "Poor Little Plaything" and two takes of "Circus In Rhythm" feature Young in the company of a large band of Basie-ites led by Earl Warren. Some nice Prez originals and lots of great playing out of everyone make this one to add to the collection.

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