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Laughin to Keep From Cryin: Vme Series
Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, H Edison
Laughin to Keep From Cryin: Vme Series
Genres: Jazz, Pop
  •  Track Listings (7) - Disc #1

Listening to Lester Young play saxophone near the end of his life can be trying, especially for those who know the brilliance of his playing before and just after World War II. Years of drinking, depression, and despair ha...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, H Edison
Title: Laughin to Keep From Cryin: Vme Series
Members Wishing: 2
Total Copies: 0
Label: Polygram Records
Original Release Date: 1/1/2000
Re-Release Date: 2/29/2000
Album Type: Extra tracks, Original recording remastered
Genres: Jazz, Pop
Styles: Cool Jazz, Swing Jazz
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 731454330121, 0731454330121, 601704605418

Listening to Lester Young play saxophone near the end of his life can be trying, especially for those who know the brilliance of his playing before and just after World War II. Years of drinking, depression, and despair had clearly taken their toll on his wind, his technique, and most of all, the inventive genius inherent in his saying what he had to say. Still, any Prez is better than anything else by most other tenor players. So this 1958 disc, which documents his next-to-last recording session, is clearly worth more than a listen. Musically, the opening two tracks on this session start out a little rough with Young deciding with typical impulsiveness to forgo the tenor sax for the clarinet--an instrument he hadn't played in any meaningful way in two decades. Yet somehow, on "They Can't Take That Away from Me," he manages to concoct a haunting solo that several writers have tabbed as his last great musical statement. His solo on "Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone," while stunted in spots, also has moments when his famous floating tone takes flight. A pair of trumpeters, Harry "Sweets" Edison (like Young, a Count Basie band alum) and Roy Eldridge, added much-needed fire to a session on which the rhythm section of Herb Ellis (guitar), Hank Jones (piano), Mickey Sheen (drums), and George Duvivier (bass) is nothing special. Although all of what's here also appears on the 1999 box set The Complete Lester Young Studio Sessions on Verve, this new Verve Master Edition reissue features new 96/24 digital transfers that give the sound a spaciousness and warmth lacking in previous issues. --Robert Baird

CD Reviews

Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat
Mike DiMartino | Rochester, NY | 09/15/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"There is this mass misperception--started by all the Leonard Feathers many years ago--that Lester progressively went down hill after his Basie days. And when even his most devout fans speak of this session, they focus on the frailty of his playing, using phrases like "painful to listen to" and "a shadow of his great years" and that tired, old cliche "years of drugs have taken their toll," making him sound like he was a washed-up has-been. This is ART. Lester was an artist--not a down and out, pathetic prize fighter or a broken down race horse put out to pasture.

The man's art grew and changed as he changed throughout his lifetime. In many interviews throughout the '50s, Lester would emphasize he is striving for a more modern, cooler approach. Perhaps he was responding to all those ridiculous and career damaging reviews that besieged him, written time and time again by those high-horse Gunther Schuller types aboard the "Lester's lost the fire" bandwagon. Thankfully, I was not pre-influenced by the Basie Lester. My intro to Lester was 1950's Lester--all those air checks, such as those once issued on the Charlie Parker Records label and originating from Birdland and the Royal Roost (but it seems people don't want to be bothered with having to listen harder to these broadcasts because of their sometimes poor audio). To me, Lester peaked (meaning he achieved his ultimate conceptions, not those expected of him by the almighty critics) during the early '50s (listen to the Clef, Norgran and Mercury sessions with Hank Jones and Buddy Rich--"Too Marvelous for Words"--yeah!).

Anyway, out of all these Amazon reviews, one word struck home with me: "haunting." I absolutely was captivated by Lester's haunting, cavernous and breathy clarinet tone the very first time I listened to this session. (Unfortunately, where clarinet is concerned, if a player chooses to play it more layed back without squealing Benny Goodmanisms all over the horn (I DO dig BG) people just don't get it. The clarinet is hopelessly forever licorice-stick stereotyped in jazz because NO ONE has yet to bring "cool" to the clarinet in the way that, for example, J.J. Johnson brought it to trombone.) And through his illness on this session, if you really listen, Lester created economically simple and engaging lines, every solo. No, it doesn't sound at all painful to me; I swear I hear a serenity in his playing here. But, alas, as one reviewer points out, this was a Lester aging beyond his years, with a wisdom too subtle--well, let's say layed back--to be appreciated by the KC 7 fans.

And therein lies the beauty in Lester's last dates. This was Lester, Lester on THAT date in time nearing the end of life. And I have to agree with Lester, when he says, during his last published interview done just prior to this session (exerpts of which appear in this album's liner notes(!)) "To hell with 1938! I want to play modern."

Mike DiMartino in Rochester, New York."
Thank You, Norman Granz
Steve Emerine | Tucson, AZ United States | 08/10/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In 1958, near the end of Lester Young's life, Verve Records founder Norman Granz invited the tenor sax great to bring a clarinet along to a recording session Granz had arranged with trumpeters Roy Eldridge and Harry "Sweets" Edison. The result gives us a hint of the impact Young could have made on clarinet jazz had he been given more chances after his 1938 Kansas City Six recordings for Commodore. TThe Prez is outstanding on "They Can't Take That Away From Me," while Eldridge and Edison are at their usual best. Thanks, Norman Granz, for giving us this glimpse of another side of Lester Young."
Roy and Sweets make this one worthwhile
William Faust | Columbus, Ohio | 06/25/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This is one on Lester Young's last recordings and as such some of the playing is painful to listen to. Years of alcohol abuse clearly took their toll on Young's technique, tone and inventiveness as an improvisor. But if you're a Sweets Edison or Roy Eldridge fan this disc should be in your collection. There's some fine small swing ensemble work here (it was a Verve session afterall) and some nice cutting between Roy & Sweets as they try and prop up Prez. Nice ballad work here between the trumpeters as well - some of the better work from Edison & Eldridge outside of their own recordings as leaders."