Happy Birthday, Lester Young (1909-1959) and Alice Coltrane (1937-2007)
Yet another pillar of innovation, Lester Young is one of those players that I didn't listen to until I was a bit older, and I realized I'd already been influenced by him through J. J. Johnson, who considered Lester Young one of his own role models as a young player. Once I started listening to those classic recordings with Nat Cole or Count Basie, I began to find out just how much vocabulary I'd stolen from J. J. that really belonged to Lester! Lester Young epitomized the concept of "cool" in jazz, way before there was any style or movement labelled as such, but also moved the style of improvisation away from the more dominant style of Coleman Hawkins. In two years, we will be celebrating what would have been Pres' 100th birthday -- I'm getting ready for it now! Here's some videos of the great Pres for your viewing pleasure:
We also celebrate the birthday of Alice Coltrane, who sadly died earlier this year, just seven months prior to her 70th birthday. I never got to hear her play live -- she lived largely outside of music since the 1970's when she became heavily involved with the Vedanta school of philosophy. I recently purchased her latest recording, Translinear Light, on my roommate's recommendation and was completely blown away, both by her musicianship, originality, and deep spirituality with the music. She is missed now more than ever, when "jazz music" seems to have become in many ways a surface definition with no depth, rather than containing the depth of concept that John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, and now Ravi Coltrane all seem to share regardless of style. Happy Birthday, Alice Coltrane.