lester young

Lester Young (1909 – 1959), nicknamed ‘Prez,’ was an American jazz tenor saxophonist. He also played clarinet, trumpet, violin, and drums. Coming to prominence while a member of Count Basie’s orchestra, Young was one of the most influential players on his instrument, playing with a cool tone and using sophisticated harmonies. He invented or popularized much of the hipster ethos which came to be associated with the music. He is said to have popularized the term ‘cool’ as slang for something fashionable.

Another slang term he reputedly coined was the term ‘bread’ for money. He would ask ‘How does the bread smell?’ when asking how much a gig was going to pay. Young’s playing style influenced many other tenor saxophonists. Perhaps the most famous and successful of these were Stan Getz and Dexter Gordon, but he also influenced many in the cool movement such as Zoot Sims. Lester Young also had a direct influence on young Charlie Parker (‘Bird’), and thus the entire be-bop movement.

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