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Afterglow Jazz and American Popular Song

Lester Young And The Singers

A centennial celebration of the tenor saxophonist featuring his recordings with Billie Holiday and other vocalists such as Ella Fitzgerald and Jimmy Rushing.

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musical romance album cover

Photo: Album Cover

Whether they were performing good songs or bad, Billie Holiday and Lester Young left a transcendent gloss on everything they did

Lester Young was born on August 27, 1909 in Woodsville, Mississippi and went on to become one of the most influential saxophonists of the 20th century.

His cool, light, fluid and singing sound stamped itself on many of the musicians who followed him in the 1940s and 1950s, Stan Getz being one prominent example. He had a tremendous appreciation for singers, and also insisted upon knowing all the words of any tune that he played.

This program gathers some of Young’s scattered recordings with vocalists such as Una Mae Carlisle, Billy Eckstine, and Ella Fitzgerald, and highlights his most significant such relationship–with Billie Holiday.

Whether they were performing good songs or bad, Holiday and Young left a transcendent gloss on everything they did; just hearing Lester’s sax at the beginning of a song sounds like an invitation to a musical dream.

Music Heard On This Episode

He's Funny That Way
Billie Holiday — A Musical Romance (Sony, 2009)
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He's Funny That Way
Billie Holiday — A Musical Romance (Sony, 2009)
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You Can Depend On Me
Count Basie — Complete Decca Recordings (GRP, 1992)

Notes: Vocals: Jimmy Rushing

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This Year's Kisses
Billie Holiday — A Musical Romance (Sony, 2009)
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A Sailboat in the Moonlight
Billie Holiday — A Musical Romance (Sony, 2009)
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I Left My Baby
Count Basie/Lester Young — Classic Columbia/Okeh/Vocalion Sessions 1936-1940 (Mosaic, 2008)

Notes: Vocals: Jimmy Rushing

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Don't Worry 'Bout Me
Count Basie — Rock-a-Bye Basie (Vintage Jazz, 1993)

Notes: Vocals: Helen Humes

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Beautiful Eyes
Una Mae Carlisle — 1938-1941 (Chronological Classics, 2002)
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On the Sunny Side of the Street
Marie Bryant/Lester Young — Hollywood Swing and Jazz (Rhino/WEA, 2000)
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Without Your Love
Billie Holiday — A Musical Romance (Sony, 2009)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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The Man I Love
Billie Holiday — A Musical Romance (Sony, 2009)
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Laughing at Life
Billie Holiday — A Musical Romance (Sony, 2009)
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St. Louis Blues
Billy Eckstine — Everything I Have Is Yours: Best of the MGM Years (Polygram, 1994)
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How High the Moon
Lester Young — Live at the Royal Roost 1948 (Unique Jazz, 2001)

Notes: Vocals: Ella Fitzgerald

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Fine and Mellow
Mal Waldron All-Stars — Sound of Jazz (Sony, 2000)

Notes: Vocals: Billie Holiday

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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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