NPR logo We Interrupt This Vacation For A Message From The President

We Interrupt This Vacation For A Message From The President

The once and future president. Herman Leonard/Getty Images hide caption

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Herman Leonard/Getty Images

The once and future president.

Herman Leonard/Getty Images

A Blog Supreme is thoroughly enjoying its time off, inasmuch as abstract entities can do that. But we would be remiss if we didn't mention that it's now 100 years since Lester Young entered the world. Tom Vitale's piece which aired this morning provides a nice gloss for those who need a Pres primer. Plus, there's this:

Throughout his life, Young struggled with racism, from the Jim Crow laws his family faced in the 1920s to the way he felt the Army treated him.

"They want everyone who's a negro to be an Uncle Tom, Uncle Remus and Uncle Sam, and I can't make it," Young said. "But it's the same way all over. You just fight for your life, you dig? Until death do we part. You got it made."

What the piece seems to have omitted, as any jazz history boffo knows, is the fact that Young gets increasingly profane — also, drunk — throughout that last interview. It's candid, heartbreaking and may well change the way you think about jazz. [UPDATE: WBGO's one-hour Lester Young special also features some of it.]

Also, as you may remember, our first Boss Lady IM chat was about Lester's first recording. It seems natural that jazzers of today wouldn't pay too much attention to that which happened 70 years ago [1] (40-50 years ago, of course, is totally different, you guyz). For me, the early Basie, Billie and assorted small group recordings (plus quite a handful of post-war sessions) are just crazy interesting, and so relevant to a generation which has seemingly already bent the rest of jazz history toward its will. (Cough MOPDtK Cough.) When he's on his game, Lester's solos are just so fresh, so buoyant, so wispily fleeting, so tactful, so full of life, so mythic, so rhythmically distinct, so "I need more of this now" — so consonant, yet so adventurous at once.

To quote Young Jeezy for the second time in the last two posts, "My president is black."


[1] Ethan Iverson takes up on this, and provides much more + suggested listening, in a 10-part Lester post that makes me want to give up on this whole blogging thing.

[2] I just realized that the headline could be referring to this campaign launched by Jazz Journalists Association President Howard Mandel. I'll have more on that after Lester at least gets his day.