Uptown's 2013 release Boston 1950 features highlights from a series of concerts the great tenor saxophonist Lester Young gave at Boston's Hi-Hat between May 26 and June 11, 1950. He was performing with trumpeter Jesse Drakes, pianist Kenny Drew, bassist Joe Schulman, and drummer Connie Kay. Lester was at one of his peaks during the late '40s and early '50s and these performances have an appealing blend of lively jump and warmth, qualities that are apparent even underneath the somewhat thin audio quality. Listen beyond those compressed sonics and you'll find thoroughly enjoyable, big-hearted hard bop that's something of a joy to hear…
This fascinating release comprises live recordings made at the end of 1956, when Miles accepted an offer to tour Europe with a formation called the "Birdland All Stars", which also included Lester Young and the Modern Jazz Quartet, along with European musicians such as pianist Rene Urtreger, bassist Pierre Michelot and drummer Christian Garros. We have here the one and only existing evidence of Miles playing with Lester Young and with the MJQ. It also presents a rare occasion to find Miles playing as the sole horn in a quartet format. As a complement, we offer the complete 1955 Newport Jazz Festival performance, in which Miles played a famous version of "Around Midnight" backed by Thelonious Monk and Gerry Mulligan.
Lester Young was one of the true jazz giants, a tenor saxophonist who came up with a completely different conception in which to play his horn, floating over bar lines with a light tone rather than adopting Coleman Hawkins' then-dominant forceful approach. A non-conformist, Young (nicknamed "Pres" by Billie Holiday) had the ironic experience in the 1950s of hearing many young tenors try to sound exactly like him.
Dave Pell's Prez Conference was to Lester Young what Supersax is to Charlie Parker. Pell's short-lived group featured harmonized Lester Young solos recreated by three tenors and a baritone; their matchup with singer Joe Williams is quite enjoyable. Since Young was in Count Basie's orchestra when Jimmy Rushing was the vocalist, Joe Williams has a rare opportunity to give his own interpretation to Rushing and Billie Holiday classics like "I May Be Wrong," "You Can Depend on Me," "If Dreams Come True" and "Easy Living." A delightful and swinging date.