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Lester Young


When Lester Young joined Count Basie's band in the '30s, he instantly attained star status. Young's unique tenor saxophone style was magnificently laid-back, and his feathery tone influenced the formation of Bop and Cool Jazz. Rather than setting a clear separation point between melody and improvisation, his incredible improvisations kept focused on the melody, and "the Pres" loved singers like Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra -- he even made his sidemen memorize lyrics -- and he staunchly believed that the most important thing to communicate in music was emotion. Though his career was often erratic, Young left an indelible mark on jazz with his deeply evocative, adventurous playing, his hipster vocabulary, his sense of style, and even the way he held his saxophone.

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