Lester Young on "Wholly Cats"

Five cuts exist from an informal New York studio recording from October 28, 1940 convened by Benny Goodman and featuring Lester Young, Buck Clayton, Charlie Christian, Count Basie, Jo Jones, and Artie Bernstein on bass. It's an invaluable document, and the playing is marvelous all-around. 

Two immortal choruses: Lester starts his first chorus on the sixth, which brings to mind the many other Prez-influenced tenorists in the '40s and '50s who leaned into that note as well. The dramatic, swooping line that opens the second chorus also caught my ear; those tightly voice-led arpeggios never get old. Dave Gelly, in his brief but evocative account of Lester Young's life, contextualizes this period in his career in relation to the recent return of Coleman Hawkins from Europe in '39 ("Body and Soul"), as well as Young's departure from Basie just a few months later in January 1941. It's a momentous period in his career, but he's truly at the top, as his playing on this and contemporaneous recordings prove beyond a doubt.

Lester Young Jazz Tenor Saxophone Solo Transcription — "Wholly Cats"


*Another extraordinary blues solo from Lester Young on this session, transcribed by Tim Fischer: "Ad Lib Blues"

**Poor imitation here


  1. Replies
    1. Absolutely! Thanks for the encouragement, Loren. I've really enjoyed reading your liner notes and scholarship, and I love that Lester FB page.


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