Lester Young

image for Lester Young
Exhibition Label
When Billie Holiday nicknamed Lester Young “the President”––or “Prez” for short­­––she paid tribute to the superior musicianship of one of jazz’s most influential innovators. A tenor saxophonist with an airy and melodic style, Young first rose to prominence in the mid-1930s during his association with Count Basie’s band. Between 1937 and 1946, his recordings with Holiday––which included memorable tracks such as “All of Me” (1941)––furthered his reputation. During the postwar period, Young became a foundational figure in the cool jazz movement, inspiring a new generation of musicians—including Charlie Parker and Stan Getz—with his lyricism.
In a departure from his usual mode of photographing musicians, Herman Leonard evoked Young’s presence with a still-life composition. Created when Young stepped away to begin a recording session, the artful arrangement features the musician’s well-worn instrument case, trademark “porkpie” hat, sheet music for “All of Me,” and his lighted cigarette balanced atop a Coke bottle.
Cuando Billie Holiday bautizó a Lester Young “the President” (“Prez”), quiso con ello rendir homenaje a la genial maestría musical de este influyente innovador del jazz. Saxofonista tenor de estilo sutil y melodioso, Young se dio a conocer a mediados de la década de 1930, cuando estuvo tocando con la banda de Count Basie. Entre 1937 y 1946, sus grabaciones con Holiday (tan memorables como “All of Me”, de 1941) consolidaron su reputación. En el período de posguerra, Young se convirtió en figura fundacional del movimiento del cool jazz, inspirando con su lirismo a una nueva generación de músicos, entre ellos Charlie Parker y Stan Getz.
Apartándose de su modo habitual de retratar a los músicos, aquí Herman Leonard evoca la presencia de Young con una composición estilo bodegón. El artístico arreglo, creado cuando Young salió de la habitación para comenzar una sesión de grabación, capta el desgastado estuche del saxofón del artista, su emblemático sombrero estilo “porkpie”, la partitura de “All of Me” y su cigarrillo encendido balanceándose en la boca de una botella de Coca-Cola.
Artist
Herman Leonard, 1923 - 2010
Sitter
Lester Willis Young, 27 Aug 1909 - 15 Mar 1959
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Restrictions & Rights
© Herman Leonard Photography LLC
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection
1948 (printed 1998)
Object number
NPG.2014.111.30
Topic
Interior
Costume\Headgear\Hat
Equipment\Smoking Implements\Cigarette
Container\Bottle
Music\Sheet music
Commemorative
Lester Willis Young: Male
Lester Willis Young: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Horn\Saxophonist
Lester Willis Young: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Jazz
Portrait
Place
United States\New York\Kings\New York
Medium
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print
Dimensions
Image: 32 × 30.5cm (12 5/8 × 12")
Sheet: 50.5 × 40.6cm (19 7/8 × 16")
Frame: 71.8 × 56.5 × 3.8 cm (28 1/4 × 22 1/4 × 1 1/2")
National Portrait Gallery
Type
Photograph