[Dixielandjazz] Who Influenced Lester Young?

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sun May 9 16:49:53 PDT 2010

On May 9, 2010, at 5:19 PM, Marek Boym wrote:

> Hi,
> This is a well known story.
> Nevertheless, I am always happy to re-read a black jazz giant praising
> my all-time favourite tenor player.
> But close listening seems to indicate another source as well: the
> Creole clarinet players.  This is more conspicuous in Young's clarinet
> playing, but is reflected in his tenor sax playing as well.
> Cheers
> On 9 May 2010 17:08, Stephen G Barbone <barbonestreet at earthlink.net>  
> wrote:
>> From an interview with Nat Hentoff of Downbeat 3/7/56. Pres talks  
>> about his
>> influencers and then gives some advice to aspiring players.
>> "I've been playing music ever since I was 10. I started on the  
>> drums, but it
>> was too much trouble to carry the traps. So I switched to alto.  
>> Frankie
>> Trumbauer and Jimmy Dorsey were battling for honors in those days,  
>> and I
>> finally found out that I liked Trumbauer. Trumbauer was my idol.  
>> When I had
>> just started to play, I used to buy all his records. I imagine I  
>> can still
>> play all those solos off the record. He played the C melody  
>> saxophone. I
>> tried to get the sound of a C melody on a tenor. That's why I don't  
>> sound
>> like other people. Trumbauer always told a little story. And I  
>> liked the way
>> he slurred the notes. He'd play the melody first and then after  
>> that, he'd
>> play around the melody. I did like Bud Freeman very much. Nobody  
>> played like
>> him. That's what knocked me out. I remember when he was with Benny  
>> Goodman."
>> . . . . .
>> Advice To Young Musicians: "A musician should know the lyrics of  
>> the songs
>> he plays, too. That completes it. Then you can go for yourself and  
>> you know
>> what you're doing. A lot of musicians that play nowadays don't know  
>> the
>> lyrics of the songs. That way they're just playing the changes.  
>> That's why I
>> like records by singers when I'm listening at home. I pick up the  
>> words
>> right from there."
>> Conclusions: "I think they'll all be finally coming back to  
>> swinging and to
>> dancing to music again. A lot of the things now are just novelties.  
>> For me,
>> the music has to swing first."

Yes, it is an old story, the actual interview was over 50 years ago. I  
figured folks might want to hear it originating from Pres's mouth  
rather than reading what someone else tells them. <grin>

Not sure I agree that Pres's Clarinet or Saxophone is influenced much  
by the early Creole reedmen. Seems to my ears he had his own voice, on  
both Tenor and Clarinet. He was to me, much more of an original  
player, who after his early influences (Trumbauer) went his own way.  
To hear him in 1938 on clarinet go to:


or later in 1958 about a year before his passing. He's a bit rusty here.


His clarinet has the same breathiness as his Tenor. IMO, his way of  

One of my favorite Pres records is below. These Foolish Things, where  
my early mentor, Hank D'Amico can be heard on clarinet. D'Amico live a  
couple of blocks from me in NYC and really sparked my interest in  
jazz. (I also dated one of his daughters).

Billy Butterfield is also on this cut + Johnny Guarnieri, Cozy Cole et  


Steve Barbone

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