Since today is February 29th (the extra day in a leap year), I though I’d share a famous jazz tune that I was reminded of: “Lester Leaps In”
This was THE recording that influenced the early beboppers. Recorded in 1939, the melody was composed by tenor sax giant Lester Young over the chord progression of George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm.” Both Young and pianist/bandleader Count Basie play wonderful solos here but it was Lester Young’s playing in particular that influenced the beboppers so much.
At the time, most sax players preferred the “vertical” improvisational style of Coleman Hawkins. But Charlie Parker, and other beboppers, latched on to the more “horizontal,” or melodic, style of Young. They all listened to this record countless times until they could sing and play every note from memory. Then they transformed what they absorbed into the bebop of the mid-1940s and early 50s.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of this recording in the world of jazz. Rock music too, since this linear improv style was passed down through Miles Davis to 60s bands like The Grateful Dead, The Doors, and The Allman Brothers.
Here it is, in all its musical glory: “Lester Leaps In”
Happy Leap Year!!!
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