Lester Willis Young

Lester Willis Young

Young, Lester Willis, 1909-59, American jazz musician, b. Woodville, Miss. He played the tenor saxophone with various bands (1929-40), including those of Fletcher Henderson and Count Basie, with whom he first recorded in 1936. Young and Coleman Hawkins are considered the major influences on tenor-saxophone playing, and Young's style was important in the development of progressive, or cool, jazz, which arose in the late 1940s. He won several jazz polls and made a number of records, including a series with Billie Holiday, who gave him his nickname, "President," later shortened to "Pres" or "Prez."

See biography by D. Gelly (2007).

Lester Young, circa 1955.

(born Aug. 27, 1909, Woodville, Miss., U.S.—died March 15, 1959, New York, N.Y.) U.S. tenor saxophonist. Young joined Count Basie's band in 1936 and was recognized as a major new stylist on the instrument. His small-group recordings from the late 1930s with Basie and vocalist Billie Holiday are classics. He was nicknamed Prez by Holiday (short for “President of the saxophone”). Young's subtle harmonies and unconventional rhythmic independence influenced both bebop and cool-jazz musicians; his gentle tone and ethereal lyricism inspired an entire school of jazz saxophone playing.

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