Sax on the Web Forum banner

1 - 20 of 61 Posts

·
Administrator
Joined
·
17,301 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I recently bought a CD with had a song played by Herb Steward, sounding very very close to the late great Lester Young. Made me remembering a phrase of Lester where he said something like "Some of my imitators play me better then I do play myself!", or something like that.

Searching for that on internet made me find this very interesting document called "THE TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH OF LESTER YOUNG":
http://www.utopianmag.com/files/in/1000000056/lesterpdf.pdf

The document has many pages and searching on the word 'imitators' made me find some interesting phrases (but not exactly the phrase I mentioned above):

Some quotes:
I have already mentioned that much of bebop was an extension or elaboration of aspects of Lester’s playing. Equally if not more important, virtually an entire generation of young tenor saxophonists developed their styles by copying him. First and foremost, there was Dexter Gordon. On a date from either the summer of 1943 or the late summer of 1944,42 a young Dexter Gordon sounds like a clone of Lester Young. Gordon, at least, went on to develop his own distinctive sound and approach. But a large number of other tenor players of the time, many of them white, based their mature playing even more directly on Young’s: Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Herb Steward, Al Cohn, Jimmy Giuffre, Allen Eager, Brew Moore, Warne Marsh, Bill Perkins, Bud Shank. Young Black players also chose that route: Wardell Grey, Gene Ammons, Paul Quinichette, Frank Foster, Frank Wess, Harold Land, Hank Mobley, Junior Cook, among others.

But it wasn’t only tenor saxophonists who copied Lester. Alto players - Paul Desmond, Art Pepper, and Lee Konitz, for example - and baritone players, such as Gerry Mulligan and Serge Chaloff, also imitated him.
To the critics, the young musicians who had copied Lester played his style better than he did. This was not only because, as some have seen it, they were playing ideas he had once played but subsequently discarded. It was also because many of his imitators also incorporated, to one degree or another, the more elaborate harmonic innovations of bebop. By and large, the younger musicians were more theoretically knowledgeable than Prez (many had attended the Juilliard School of Music or similar institutions) and were more practiced, more technically proficient, than he was.
It
is interesting to note in this regard that very few of Lester’s legion of imitators among jazz musicians ever truly mastered his method of improvisation. Instead, they took his tone, his style of phrasing, and his phrases, and integrated them into a much more traditional—harmonic—approach. As a result, they don’t really play his style (let alone better than he did himself, as some have contended); they play a superficial facsimile of it,
It's actually not my intention to discuss the content of this huge document, but more to let the music tell the story.

So feel free to add your opinion, but even more to add a clip of someone you find playing very close to good old Lester (if possible with an example of Lester next to it). Doesn't have to be a brand name player, might be a clip of yourself or an lesser known player too!
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
17,301 Posts
Discussion Starter #2

·
Administrator
Joined
·
17,301 Posts
Discussion Starter #4

·
Administrator
Joined
·
17,301 Posts
Discussion Starter #5

·
Administrator
Joined
·
17,301 Posts
Discussion Starter #9

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
TENOR, soprano, alto, baritone
Joined
·
7,457 Posts
Imitating those you respect in music has always been how you learned. When a player lays down something new, different and good, everybody jumps on the bandwagon. Its how things progress.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,067 Posts
I've often wondered how much of the "Lester Young imitator" talk is simply a product of Lester's own bitter musings. It's no secret that he resented the success of the younger generation of players while he was in decay. Although, I'm sure it must've been psychologically difficult to be the progenitor of the "softer tone/lyrical playing" style only to see yourself surpassed by those whom you view as copping your style.

To suggest that players like Pepper, Desmond, Getz, Mobley, Marsh, etc. are mere "superficial facsimiles" (from the quote) of Lester Young is disingenuous. "Imitators" has always been a dirty word in the jazz world, IMO. Much more fair to say that the players cited above were strongly influenced by Lester. But, then again, how could they not be when he was among the first?
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009-
Joined
·
2,759 Posts
For me the thing that his "imitators" — and I count many of them among my favorite players — never really got was the unpredictability of his lines combined with that laid back groove. Without playing a flurry of notes he takes you for a ride on a winding road with a surprise around every corner. I think he had an influence on the R&B honkers as well. Not that he honked and screamed and walked the bar but more that he knew just where to place a scoop or a low Bb for emphasis.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member.
Joined
·
4,680 Posts
I've often wondered how much of the "Lester Young imitator" talk is simply a product of Lester's own bitter musings. It's no secret that he resented the success of the younger generation of players while he was in decay. Although, I'm sure it must've been psychologically difficult to be the progenitor of the "softer tone/lyrical playing" style only to see yourself surpassed by those whom you view as copping your style.

To suggest that players like Pepper, Desmond, Getz, Mobley, Marsh, etc. are mere "superficial facsimiles" (from the quote) of Lester Young is disingenuous. "Imitators" has always been a dirty word in the jazz world, IMO. Much more fair to say that the players cited above were strongly influenced by Lester. But, then again, how could they not be when he was among the first?
As a discussion topic I was automatically thinking in terms of 'strongly influenced by Lester' .

I believe Lester Young was definitely depressed about the 'imitators' to a certain degree, though .

Charlie Parker was also getting weary of all of the 'imitators' also. He even thanked Lee Konitz for not playing like him
when they did a brief tour together - not playing in the same band - but in separate groups.
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
17,301 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
Yeah, that's because Lee was too busy copping Lester. /sarcasm :D
There is some about that in the document linked to in post #1:

An anecdote recounted by alto saxophonist Lee Konitz (himself greatly influenced by Young) seconds this:

“I was on tour with Charlie once and I was warming up in my dressing room—I happened to be playing one of Lester’s choruses—and Bird came noodling into the room and said, ‘Hey, you ever heard this one?’ and he played ‘Shoe Shine Swing’ about twice as fast as the record. He knew all that. I believe he’s probably whistling it up in heaven right now.”
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
17,301 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
To suggest that players like Pepper, Desmond, Getz, Mobley, Marsh, etc. are mere "superficial facsimiles" (from the quote) of Lester Young is disingenuous. "Imitators" has always been a dirty word in the jazz world, IMO. Much more fair to say that the players cited above were strongly influenced by Lester. But, then again, how could they not be when he was among the first?
Fully agree with this.

For me the thing that his "imitators" — and I count many of them among my favorite players — never really got was the unpredictability of his lines combined with that laid back groove. Without playing a flurry of notes he takes you for a ride on a winding road with a surprise around every corner. I think he had an influence on the R&B honkers as well. Not that he honked and screamed and walked the bar but more that he knew just where to place a scoop or a low Bb for emphasis.
Also agree with this!

Actually there is in the document from post #1 some information about the R&B influences too:

Nor was Young’s musical influence limited to jazz. Large numbers of the saxophonists heard on R&B and Rock ’n’ Roll recordings were also powerfully influenced by Young. This is often traced through Illinois Jacquet, whose solo on Lionel Hampton’s band’s 1941 cut of “Flying Home” is usually considered to be the first R&B saxophone solo. But I suspect many R&B horn players were directly inspired by Prez: Lee Allen, Herb Hardesty, Alvin “Red” Tyler, King Curtis, among others. I hear Lester’s playing in the work of Junior Walker from the 1960s, and in the playing of R&B and rock horn players down to this day. In the post-war period, there were so many saxophonists playing like Lester that, as he once put it, he couldn’t get a job playing like himself. Everywhere he turned, there were guys playing his stuff. And not just his sound and his phrasing; riffs he had played years before were being played over and over again, worked into the ground. Brilliant, radical ideas used, perhaps only once, to spice up a solo had been turned into formulas, cliches. (As my brother, a guitarist, once commented, Prez’s style was “eminently copy-able.”)
 
1 - 20 of 61 Posts
Top