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“Lester Leaps In” (1940) by Lester Young was first recorded in 1939 when he was with the Count Basie Kansas City Seven. Featuring alternating solos by Count Basie and Lester Young the website Three Perfect Minutes lists “Lester Leaps In” as a “study in minimalism”, with Basie and Young seeing who could do the most with the least. Eddie Jefferson wrote lyrics, dubbed “I Got the Blues”. Started as a “head arrangement”, the song was a standard with the Count Basie Band for years and remains popular with musicians and audiences.
Lester Young (1909-1959) grew up near New Orleans. His first musical training was with drums, resulting in a life-long “perfect time”, analogous to “perfect pitch”, which greatly influenced his music. Having learned trumpet, violin and saxophone, he toured with his father’s bands until his late teens. The habits of intense study, a strong work ethic, a dry sense of humor, devotion to family and intense privacy contributed strongly to his music. Dubbed Pres, “the President of the Saxophone”, possibly by Billie Holiday, he gave her the nickname “Lady Day”. He was a powerful influence on her, on jazz and on saxophonists in particular. Among terms he popularized were “cool”, for fashionable, and “bread”, for money, still much in use today.