One of the most obvious qualities of jazz is that a truly gifted practitioner generates a sound and style that is all his own. So much so that you often need to hear only a few bars of even an unfamiliar recording to identify the player. Lester Young is one such artist.
Ironically, Young's style was copied by scores of younger musicians, with perhaps Stan Getz standing out as the most gifted, so that almost every recording out of the West Coast or Cool schools of the 1950s is filled with Lester Young touches. But they are still imitations, and come across as such, however well executed.
I first heard Young when I was a young man going through a stage of exploring all jazz. I borrowed a record called 'The Aladdin Sessions' from the library and was knocked out by it. These are all small group performances, some in the style of swing, some more in the bebop mode. Either way, they are all deeply emotionally affecting and drenched with a blues sensibility.
I'm playing them again tonight. They remind me of film noir, of smokey bars and hats, rain on city streets, classic American cars, lost loves and sexy women, longingly looking into shop windows, bottles of whisky, fire escapes, laundry on clothes lines, up-ended trash cans, and soot on brick walls.
I love them.