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Old 05-16-2014, 05:51 PM   #41 (permalink)
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Another female musician is one of the greatest bassists you never heard—Laura Bohle. She was known to the soldiers only as Laura from Chicago. Classically trained on bass, she handled the bow with a proficiency that even the best male bassists could only dream of and her formidable bass-walking abilities were second to none. Bohle was known among the soldiers and the other musicians alike as one of the best—if not THE best—bassist on the USO circuit. An impressive audition had won her a full scholarship to the Eastman School of Music and she was recommended for the Rochester Philharmonic. She wanted the freedom that touring offered and went on the road but found there were NO billets open for a female bassist except for all-female bands and, due to the dearth of them, the competition for a slot was fierce. While female vocalist could and did lead all-male backup bands, a female bassist doing the same was simply not going to happen. Although not illegal, it may as well have been.

Bohle’s chops were good enough, however, that she didn’t have to settle for a background role. She led her own all-female swing band. They would take to the stage for the USO and Laura would open playing a difficult arco (bowed) bass solo of a classical piece. She would build to a hot climax to applause and cheers from the soldiers and then ease off so that the brass could join in with a baroque fanfare as though the whole set was going to be classical but then the drums would kick in with a syncopated jazz beat, Laura would tuck her bow away, and the piece would mutate into a swing number as hot and gone as anything an all-male band could come up with. The usual piece would be “Trigger Fantasy” by Glenn Miller written by Miller’s bassist, Trigger Alpert, featuring difficult pizzicato (plucked) bass lines and solo which Laura would embellish to an even greater degree and yet dash it off effortlessly while the soldiers, starved for anything that reminded them of home, went crazy to hear a bunch of girls playing big band jazz as well as big band jazz can be played.


Laura Bohle entertaining the soldiers. Long before there was a Nicki Parrot or an Esperanza Spalding, there was Laura from Chicago. I can find no recordings of her.
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Old 05-16-2014, 05:55 PM   #42 (permalink)
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The way that Bohle and many other white female jazz artists set up their shows was telling. All-male swing bands rarely, if ever, played anything classical unless it was a fully jazzed-up version. But for the ladies, a straight classical piece was necessary due to racial/sexual politics. Classical was seen as high art of great delicacy and beauty and white women of that era were seen as a product of this European art sensibility—they too must be delicate and beautiful. She could be a great musician but she must play classical. To play jazz, especially straight black jazz rather than the watered-down white jazz, was to tread dangerous waters. A white man could play jazz, you understand, because he could not be corrupted by the sensuous black rhythms and forget his whiteness but a white woman is a different story. She might well be tempted into sexual promiscuity with the implicit fear that she might even start to desire black men. So Laura Bohle would start off her show playing straight classical only to then dip into jazz. She got away with it because she was playing for soldiers starved for anything that reminded them of home but who otherwise might not have been so enamored with her talent.


This photo of the great jazz singer, trumpeter, bandleader and inventor of the B-collar shirt, Billy Eckstine, caused some consternation when it was first published in Life magazine. Although it was only intended to show how the ladies loved Billy—the very epitome of tall, dark and handsome—many whites were upset that it showed how the white ladies loved Billy. In every sense, white women were as oppressed and restricted as black people. They had to watch everything they said and did or face social criticism that could ruin them. White women were jailed simply accepting help from a black man. It seems ridiculous to us today but it was very real in the 40s and lasted through the 60s.
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Old 05-16-2014, 06:01 PM   #43 (permalink)
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The first all-female jazz band to recruit women of any race equally was the International Sweethearts of Rhythm (ISR). They were originally all-black and remained majority black throughout their existence but recruited Puerto Rican, Chinese and, finally, white musicians into their ranks. In fact, the reason they used “International” in their name was as a code phrase that some of the light-skinned women in the band were not white. These women often found themselves in strange situations. When the band played in the South, white policemen, enforcing the Jim Crow laws, sometimes dragged them off the stage believing them to be white even though they were technically “colored.” Other times, the cops would get between them and the black audience believing they were protecting white womanhood. In other cases, these women were treated no differently than the black women but, when playing in white bands, were treated no differently than the white women. Clearly, Southern society itself was unable to decide whether light-skinned women of Asian or Indian descent were “colored” or not. So they were colored when they were with colored people and white when they were with white people. They had no other identity than by the whites or blacks they kept for company.

Overall, ISR had little trouble with the cops, recalled baritone sax-player Willie Mae Wong, until they recruited white members in 1943. The first to join was Toby Butler who was legally white but raised in a black family after she was orphaned at seven. The family that raised her was very poor but did so because she had no place else to go and she never forgot their kindness and loved them with all her heart. She went to the same school that ISR was spawned from—Piney Woods Country Life School in Virginia. She loved and deeply admired ISR and longed to join them. She eventually became a trumpet-player in the band. When she joined (convincing the whites around her that, despite her undeniably white appearance, that she was “colored”), the band became her new home—one she was determined never to leave—although she did play stints in other all-female bands. She was quite good.


Toby Butler.

The band had some great talent in the ranks. Trumpeter Ernestine “Tiny” Davis was one of the best in the business. Drummer Pauline Braddy had been a clarinetist but moved over to alto sax and hoped to join ISR playing that instrument. She made the mistake of mentioning her good sense of timing at her audition and was promptly put behind the drums which she did not know how to play and did not want to play. She was told the band had all the reed players it needed but not a drummer so if she wanted to gig in ISR it would have to be as a drummer. She accepted and went onto become a terrific drummer whose solos were so good that she won praise from Big Sid Catlett and Philly Jo Jones.

The next white musician to join was saxophonist Rosalind “Roz” Cron. Unlike Toby Butler who grew up as a black in the South and knew its racism well, Cron was from Boston and played in either white bands or in black bands that toured in the North. A veteran of big bands and an expert sight-reader, she was a seasoned professional as a musician when she joined ISR but got into trouble in the South because she didn’t realize that there were actual laws that said she could not walk or talk with a black person in public. She could not sit on the same park bench, drink from the same fountain or eat with one. When she walked down the sidewalk, she was disturbed that all the black people stepped into the street as she passed—they had to, it was the law (Moe Howard of the Three Stooges had the same thing happen to him when the Stooges toured through Jacksonville after he walked an elderly black man to his home which resulted in a cancelled gig as the Stooges and their entourage were chased out of town).

Cron got into trouble one day when she and fellow band member, Millie Jones (African- and Native American), had walked into a Woolworth’s and Cron sat at the lunch counter and ordered a coke for herself and her friend. Jones squeezed Roz’s arm and ran out of the store. Cron ran after her, completely unaware of what was wrong with her friend. Later that day, the band’s manager, Rae Lee Jones (no relation to Millie) read Roz the riot act. She was to henceforth try to pass as a light-skinned “colored” girl if she wanted to stay with the band. They could not afford to have these kinds of slip-ups which could ruin the band literally overnight. Cron thereafter dyed her hair black and permed it and wore dark makeup in an effort to pass for black. She even worked out an elaborate (i.e. couldn’t be verified) but believable story of her half-black origins should anyone ask. She loved being in ISR and was not going to let Jim Crow or anything else louse it up for her. In fact, all the ladies were instructed as to what to say if a cop should ask something like, “What’s a white girl doing behind the drums?” They were to respond, “She’s a mulatto, her father’s white, she’s never net him.” Under no circumstances were they ever to reply that the girl’s mother was white.


ISR’s sax section—(Standing L to R) Helen Saine (3rd alto), Roz Cron (lead alto), Vi Burnside (jazz tenor). (Seated L to R) Grace Bayron (4th tenor), Willie Mae Wong (baritone).

The third white member of ISR was Maxine Fields. Jones told her before the Southern tour even started to learn how to pass for black because white women cannot play in a band with black women without being arrested where they would be hauled off to jail and beaten with rubber hoses which don’t leave behind any marks. Roz Cron realized the full extent of it when she was separated from the band in El Paso, Texas during the war and a black soldier tried to help her find a taxi. The sheriff arrested them both for nothing more than standing on the sidewalk together as the soldier attempted to hail her a cab.

The irony of whites “browning down” as they called it was that while blackface minstrels were reviled for the practice, whites playing in black big bands had to do it in order to survive. The white men who played for Fletcher Henderson, for example, put on blackface when touring the South (and Henderson himself might have considering how light he was). Another irony was that white Southern cops had their roles as defenders of white female purity challenged when white women had to brown down to protect themselves from those same cops. Yet another irony occurred when light-skinned, but legally black, women were hauled offstage by Southern cops who thought they were white while leaving legally white women onstage because they were darker! Suddenly, the one-drop rule—the linch-pin of Jim Crow—did not matter a wit. This supposedly stalwart segregation policy so essential to the well being of Southern whites was being exposed by the police themselves as unworkable, unenforceable and asinine.

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm:

The International Sweethearts Of Rhythm " Jump Children " !!! - YouTube




The International Sweethearts Of Rhythm "I Left My Man" !!! - YouTube

In 1950, Anna Mae Winburn, the band’s singer, reorganized the Sweethearts with herself as bandleader and they were very good and rather popular but suddenly rock and roll was upon them and there was no place for the big bands anymore. The Sweethearts broke up in 1955. They reformed from time to time with Willie Mae Wong always eager to rejoin. Willie Mae loved ISR and would have done anything to stay in. She remained with the band until her death in 2013.




The ladies in their heyday.


Roz Cron solos.

Ada Leonard’s All-Girl Swing Band:

Ada Leonard's All-American Girls - YouTube

Jeanne Hackett Girls:

Soundie: Southland Swing - YouTube

Last edited by Lord Larehip; 05-17-2014 at 11:05 AM.
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Old 08-02-2014, 02:58 PM   #44 (permalink)
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Those who have been patiently reading this thread are probably getting tired of waiting for me to get out of the swing jazz era and start exploring be-bop. The problem is that I just cannot do that yet. There are still highly important jazz figures that have to be covered because bop cannot be understood without understanding their contributions to its emergence. One of these is Lester Young.

Born August 27, 1909 in Woodville, Mississippi, Lester Willis Young came from a musical family. His brother, Lee, was a drummer. Lester’s father, Willis, was multi-talented but Lester did not know him during his early childhood. When Lester learned that his father was musician, he wanted to be one too. By the time he did meet his father, Willis taught Lester sax, trumpet, drums and violin but their relationship would be a contentious one. The Young family formed a band, the Young Family Band, which toured much of the country on the vaudeville circuit. Lester was brought in at age 10. In 1927, however, Lester left the band because they were willing to tour the Jim Crow South and play for segregated audiences which Lester refused to do.

Now 18, Lester drifted around looking for a steady gig and ended up in Kansas City by 1933 which had one of the hottest jazz scenes, if not the hottest, to be found. Lester played in a few bands such as the Bostonians (who’s leader, Art Bronson, deserves the credit for getting Lester to switch from alto to tenor sax), before joining Walter Page’s Blue Devils, a territorial band born from Bennie Moten’s orchestra. Lester left a short time later and returned to the Young Family Band in 1929 but left again in less than a year then returned to the Bostonians. Lester stayed with Bronson for a short time then returned to the Blue Devils in 1932. The Blue Devils were in their last days so Lester left and gigged with a few other bands building a reputation as an up-and-coming, solid talent.

When Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra came to town, everyone wanted to see the great Coleman Hawkins. All the KC sax players flocked to a venue called the Cherry Blossom where Henderson was booked to play. In the after-hours, a cutting contest began between Hawkins, roundly considered the greatest tenor sax man alive, and the KC tenor men including Lester, Ben Webster and Herschel Evans. Mary Lou Williams was there and recounted what happened:

“Hawkins was in his singlet taking turns with the Kaycee men. It seems he had run into something he didn’t expect. Lester’s style was light and, as I said, it took him maybe five choruses to warm up. But then he would really blow; then you couldn’t handle him on a cutting session. That was how Hawkins got hung up…Yes, Hawkins was king until he met those crazy Kansas City tenor men.”

Lester left Kansas City with the Henderson orchestra since Hawkins was leaving to tour Europe with British bandleader Jack Hylton for what was to be a few months (which turned into a few years). But Henderson’s sidemen did not like Lester’s style. They were used to the aggressive approach of Hawkins and wanted Chu Berry, the foremost Hawkins disciple, as his replacement. But Berry had hooked up with Cab Calloway and was unwilling to forsake this gig because Henderson’s orchestra often went long stretches without work and Calloway was a tireless worker who always had a paying gig lined up somewhere. So Lester became the replacement and neither the sidemen nor fans of the orchestra, used to a heavier style, cared for Lester’s playing. He left a few months later and returned to Kansas City.

Following Moten’s death, Basie was elected to take over the band. Basie, recognizing great talent, recruited Lester, who was back in KC, from Andy Kirk’s orchestra. Under Basie’s tutelage, Lester began to carve out a niche for himself and develop his own musical vocabulary. Basie added another tenor sax man, Herschel Evans, in addition to Lester and had them flank the alto sax player. No other band was doing this and it pushed new ideas out of Young and added to his already considerable arsenal.

Young’s primary influence was, of all people, a white sax player from Paul Whiteman’s band named Frankie Trumbauer (“That was my man!” Young said in an interview). In the late 20s, Trumbauer and fellow Whiteman member, Bix Beiderbecke, teamed up to record their own arrangements with Bix on cornet and Trumbauer on C-melody sax. Trumbauer or Tram, as he was known, was highly regarded by the jazz world in the late twenties and influenced more musicians than just Lester Young. But Lester was his most important disciple, by far. Tram and Bix had been together a long time, even before Whiteman when they played in Detroit for Jean Goldkette and even before that. That the two men would hit it off is ironic because they were polar opposites. Bix was engaging and outgoing while Trumbauer was taciturn and quiet. Bix had a round, cherubic smiling face of unmistakable Teutonic good looks while Trumbauer, part American Indian, had a longer, less identifiable face that tended to look melancholy. Bix loved to talk about classical music and good books while Tram kept his opinions to himself. Bix, despite his musical prowess, was unschooled in both cornet and piano and could barely read music while Tram was well-schooled and played several instruments quite well (cornet, piano, flute, bassoon, trombone, violin) with sax actually being a less serious endeavor than the others. Bix loved the life of a jazz musician while Tram could take it or leave it (and he did, in fact, eventually leave it). Bix would stay up and party all night after a show but Tram returned home as early as possible to be with his wife and child.


Paul Whiteman Orch - Sugar (Surface Noise Reduced) - YouTube
In this 1928 Paul Whiteman clip of the great Maceo Pinkard song, Bix and Tram begin soloing together from 1:06 to 1:45 and while it doesn’t do their talents justice, it does demonstrate the relationship of the two men: Bix up there soaring on bright brass wings and Tram keeping Bix anchored so he doesn’t fly off too far. In the photo, Bix is in the first row on the far left and Tram is also in the first row just to the right of Whiteman.

While both men played with a light, airy touch, Bix had a very wide vocabulary on the cornet that Tram either lacked or did not make much use of and yet this made him all the more intriguing to listen to. He eschewed the arpeggiation and harmonic stylings prevalent in his day and did away with that “verticality” in ways that required no small degree of skill—above and beyond what other jazzmen had. Imagine seeing a beautiful, complex painting and yet upon close examination, you realize the artist did it all using nothing but horizontal brush strokes—no vertical strokes, no curls, no flourishes, even circular shapes were painstakingly done with horizontal strokes—that is how Trumbauer constructed his musical lines and phrasings. He either lacked or avoided certain skills but used other skills in his repertoire to great advantage. Quite simply no one else was doing anything like it.


Tram, Eddie Lang and Bix had played together years before in St. Louis with Joe Venuti and Adrian Rollini in a band that was considered to be exceptional.

But the recordings of Bix and Tram were more than simply great musicianship, they were setting the table for jazz balladeering as well the cool jazz that was still more than two decades away.

When Lester heard Bix and Tram laying it down on these recordings, a light went on in his head. Tram had a light, airy touch that differed fundamentally from Coleman Hawkins’ more aggressive style. Hawkins would stomp all over the beats putting his mark on them but Tram taught Lester how to dance over and around the beats with a step so light as to not even touch them. Like Trumbauer, Lester always played a little behind the beat. Tram taught Lester to float. Lester learned to use the upper register of the tenor sax in order to sound more like a C-melody sax and this, in turn, influenced Charlie Parker.


Trumbology - Frankie Trumbauer & his Orchestra - YouTube
From 1927 featuring Tram on C-melody sax, Bix on cornet, Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet/alto sax, Bill Rank on trombone, Howdy Quicksell on banjo, Paul Mertz on piano and Chauncy Morehouse on drums.


Singin' the Blues. Bix Beiderbecke and Frankie Trumbauer 1927 - YouTube
From 1927, considered one of the finest jazz recordings ever made. Tram on C-melody sax, Bix on cornet, Eddie Lang (Salvatore Massaro) on guitar, Itzy Riskin on piano and Chauncy Morehouse on drums.

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Old 08-02-2014, 03:01 PM   #45 (permalink)
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Lester Young 1939 ~ Original Lester Leaps In (Take 1) - YouTube
Lester and the Basie orchestra doing his signature song.

Where Lester Young established himself as “Prez” was during his stint with Billie Holiday where his sax work approached the sublime:


Billie Holiday - Lester Young 1937 ~ This Year's Kisses - YouTube


Without Your Love - Billie Holiday ft. Lester Young (Tenor Sax) - YouTube


Lester Young Speaks - Billie Holiday 1937 ~ A Sailboat In The Moonlight - YouTube

Lester and Billie were lovers during this time. Holiday, in fact, gave Lester the title of “Prez” as in “President of the Tenor Sax.” He gave her the moniker of “Lady Day.” In jazz, a bandleader would sometimes dub his best soloist with a title as “King” or the fans would dub a great bandleader with some such appellation. That’s why Buddy Bolden is often referred to as King Bolden and why Joe Oliver was usually referred to as King Oliver. Generally, once someone of stature in the jazz world bestowed a title on one of his or her musicians, it generally stuck. Lester took it in stride. He was not a narcissist or a braggart. He accepted the title of Prez but freely acknowledged in interviews that Coleman Hawkins was the original Prez. “I’m the second,” he said—an accurate assessment.
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Old 08-02-2014, 03:06 PM   #46 (permalink)
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Prez and Hawk respected and liked one another and appeared together throughout their careers but their approaches were fundamentally different. When Hawk played hot, he sounded hot. Lester, on the other hand, always sounded cool no matter how hot he played. There was a decidedly cool approach in everything he did. This was true not only of his sax work but his clarinet work as well. Although not well known as a clarinet player, Young was quite accomplished on the instrument and played it on the 1938 New York recordings with the Kansas City Seven and his clarinet sensibility also reflected the cool aesthetic that was completely different from anything done by Goodman or Jimmy Dorsey. It was this coolness in Lester’s playing that caused fans of Hawk to reject him when he was brought in to replace him. Young is, in fact, the single bridge between Bix & Tram from the twenties to the eventual emergence of cool jazz in the fifties.


Lester Young 1939 ~ Original Lester Leaps In (Take 1) - YouTube


Count Basie - Jive at Five 1939 w/ Lester Young - YouTube

This was quite difficult road for Young to travel. He had to take on the entire jazz world and make it see his point-of-view and yet he succeeded. Without Young, there would have been no Stan Getz or Gerry Mulligan. Hot and cool are opposite sensibilities and aesthetics and the former was much more preferred in the jazz universe and many saw it as the embodiment of jazz and so the thought of a cool approach to jazz was a contradiction, a complete absurdity. Basie, evidently, saw some value in it though as he hired Lester for his band after working with him in previously in the Blue Devils. Perhaps he saw some use in pairing his cool approach with hotter approach of Herschel Evans to introduce a new sound to the big band—a sound that eventually became a new vocabulary. In fact, Lester’s spoken vocabulary also had a tremendous influence on jazz as much of the hepcat jive is attributable to him.

Lester reportedly refused to play on Friday the 13th and this led to Basie sacking him in 1940 after Young skipped a gig for this reason. Others say that Lester left on his own. Whatever the reason, they parted ways and Lester went to New York and began his productive career playing with Billie Holiday. Holiday’s ability to use her voice as a jazz instrument mixed incredibly well with Lester’s playing. They seemed made for each other. Lester was the toast of the jazz world and his trademark crooked neck and porkpie hat became iconic:



In 1943, Lester and Basie decided to get back together but it wouldn’t last as Lester had been drafted into the U.S. Army. While white musicians were almost always allowed to continue playing music after being conscripted (Glenn Miller, Les Paul, etc.), black musicians were generally shuttled into the regular army and forbidden to play their instruments. Lester was one of the black soldiers to suffer this indignity. Forbidden to play the sax, Lester turned to marijuana and alcohol to fill the void in his military life. He was caught with this contraband, court-martialed, served a year in detention and given a dishonorable discharge.


Lester Young- DB (Detention Barrack) Blues - YouTube
Lester’s piece about his experience in detention.

After the war, Lester Young found a steady with Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP) founded by jazz impresario Norman Granz and many of the sessions were recorded and released on Granz’s highly influential label, Verve. During this time, Lester experimented with plastic reeds and made them a permanent part of his style alongside the wooden reeds he had always used. He also experimented with different mouthpieces. Lester recorded with Nat King Cole (terrific jazz pianist) on the Aladdin label and with Basie on the Savoy label.


Charlie Parker & Lester Young - Embraceable You - YouTube
A 1949 JATP performance with Charlie Parker and Roy Eldridge. The all-star lineup also included Ray Brown on bass, Buddy Rich on drums and Hank Jones on piano. Lester is just slaying it!

By 1951, however, Lester’s playing was noticeably declining due, in no small part, to his drinking. Yet, he was still capable of great performances as this 1952 clip of Lester with the Oscar Peterson Trio proves:


Lester Young with the Oscar Peterson Trio - YouTube

But his health was deteriorating which culminated in 1955 with a nervous breakdown. A couple of months later, however, Lester was detoxed and feeling healthy again. He began recording with Teddy Wilson and Roy Eldridge on Verve (Granz producing). Then he went with Miles Davis on a European tour. He would get together with Basie again 1957 for the Newport Jazz Festival which is considered one of his finest performances despite being quite ill.
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Old 08-02-2014, 03:09 PM   #47 (permalink)
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In December of ’57, Lester appeared on the CBS program The Sound of Jazz with Lady Day, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Vic Dickenson (trombone), Ben Webster (tenor sax), Gerry Mulligan (baritone sax) where they performed “Fine and Mellow” featuring one of the most beautiful solos Prez ever played. Although he is standing when he solos, Young was actually seated throughout the rest of the performance as he was quite ill, drinking more than ever and not eating. His liver was shot. Billie’s health wasn’t the greatest either but she also gives a marvelous performance.


Fine And Mellow Billie Holiday With Coleman Hawkins Lester Young Ben Webster Gerry Mulligan Vic Dickenson Roy Eldridge - YouTube

Lester didn’t slow down much though. He still had music in him. In this 1958 jazz all-star clip, Lester and Hawk are still playing together and Lester shows himself in top form. He had to know he was dying but seemed determined to go playing his heart out rather than sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch reminiscing about the good ol’ days.


Lester Young &Coleman Hawkins 1958 - YouTube

In 1959, Lester recorded his final sessions in Paris with Kenny Clarke (drummer of the Modern Jazz Quartet). His health was severely in decline. Upon returning to New York on March 15, 1959, Prez fell ill and died at the age of 49. By then, Lester was so well regarded in the jazz world that he was universally mourned. He had been a tremendous influence on three jazz sub-genres—swing, bop and cool, the last one being a direct outgrowth of his approach to jazz and never would have existed without him. His influence was so huge that he is second only to Louis Armstrong in that category. In some ways, his influence was even larger. The beats copied his manner of dress and speech which spilled over into the hippie movement and has affected the very way Americans today speak. There is not a sax player alive today who has not been fundamentally affected by Lester Young—everyone from Dexter Gordon to Don Byron to Joe Lovano.

A few months after Lester’s death, Charles Mingus composed “Goodbye to a Porkpie Hat” and Wayne Shorter (of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers) wrote “Lester Left Town.” A definite hole was opened in jazz upon his death because Lester continued to be vital to the jazz world to the end. Lester’s music didn’t give out, his body did. The music still has yet to stop. When Lester checked out, he checked out on top of the world.

After his funeral service, Leonard Feather escorted 44-year-old Billie Holiday back to her place in a cab. She told him, “I’ll be the next one to go.” Four months later, she did.
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Originally Posted by Lord Larehip View Post
Young’s primary influence was, of all people, a white sax player from Paul Whiteman’s band named Frankie Trumbauer (“That was my man!” Young said in an interview). In the late 20s, Trumbauer and fellow Whiteman member, Bix Beiderbecke, teamed up to record their own arrangements with Bix on cornet and Trumbauer on C-melody sax. Trumbauer or Tram, as he was known, was highly regarded by the jazz world in the late twenties and influenced more musicians than just Lester Young. But Lester was his most important disciple, by far. Tram and Bix had been together a long time, even before Whiteman when they played in Detroit for Jean Goldkette and even before that. That the two men would hit it off is ironic because they were polar opposites. Bix was engaging and outgoing while Trumbauer was taciturn and quiet. Bix had a round, cherubic smiling face of unmistakable Teutonic good looks while Trumbauer, part American Indian, had a longer, less identifiable face that tended to look melancholy. Bix loved to talk about classical music and good books while Tram kept his opinions to himself. Bix, despite his musical prowess, was unschooled in both cornet and piano and could barely read music while Tram was well-schooled and played several instruments quite well (cornet, piano, flute, bassoon, trombone, violin) with sax actually being a less serious endeavor than the others. Bix loved the life of a jazz musician while Tram could take it or leave it (and he did, in fact, eventually leave it). Bix would stay up and party all night after a show but Tram returned home as early as possible to be with his wife and child.


Paul Whiteman Orch - Sugar (Surface Noise Reduced) - YouTube
In this 1928 Paul Whiteman clip of the great Maceo Pinkard song, Bix and Tram begin soloing together from 1:06 to 1:45 and while it doesn’t do their talents justice, it does demonstrate the relationship of the two men: Bix up there soaring on bright brass wings and Tram keeping Bix anchored so he doesn’t fly off too far. In the photo, Bix is in the first row on the far left and Tram is also in the first row just to the right of Whiteman.

While both men played with a light, airy touch, Bix had a very wide vocabulary on the cornet that Tram either lacked or did not make much use of and yet this made him all the more intriguing to listen to. He eschewed the arpeggiation and harmonic stylings prevalent in his day and did away with that “verticality” in ways that required no small degree of skill—above and beyond what other jazzmen had. Imagine seeing a beautiful, complex painting and yet upon close examination, you realize the artist did it all using nothing but horizontal brush strokes—no vertical strokes, no curls, no flourishes, even circular shapes were painstakingly done with horizontal strokes—that is how Trumbauer constructed his musical lines and phrasings. He either lacked or avoided certain skills but used other skills in his repertoire to great advantage. Quite simply no one else was doing anything like it.


Tram, Eddie Lang and Bix had played together years before in St. Louis with Joe Venuti and Adrian Rollini in a band that was considered to be exceptional.

But the recordings of Bix and Tram were more than simply great musicianship, they were setting the table for jazz balladeering as well the cool jazz that was still more than two decades away.

When Lester heard Bix and Tram laying it down on these recordings, a light went on in his head. Tram had a light, airy touch that differed fundamentally from Coleman Hawkins’ more aggressive style. Hawkins would stomp all over the beats putting his mark on them but Tram taught Lester how to dance over and around the beats with a step so light as to not even touch them. Like Trumbauer, Lester always played a little behind the beat. Tram taught Lester to float. Lester learned to use the upper register of the tenor sax in order to sound more like a C-melody sax and this, in turn, influenced Charlie Parker.


Trumbology - Frankie Trumbauer & his Orchestra - YouTube
From 1927 featuring Tram on C-melody sax, Bix on cornet, Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet/alto sax, Bill Rank on trombone, Howdy Quicksell on banjo, Paul Mertz on piano and Chauncy Morehouse on drums.


Singin' the Blues. Bix Beiderbecke and Frankie Trumbauer 1927 - YouTube
From 1927, considered one of the finest jazz recordings ever made. Tram on C-melody sax, Bix on cornet, Eddie Lang (Salvatore Massaro) on guitar, Itzy Riskin on piano and Chauncy Morehouse on drums.

cool read, thanks
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Old 03-29-2017, 06:50 AM   #49 (permalink)
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Great thread, wonder why the account was disabled
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