Lester Young, Tenor Sax, 1909, Woodville, MS
Lester was the oldest of three children and grew up in the.New Orleansarea. Lester's father, Willis, a versatile musician, was able to teach all his children an instrument, and eventually formed a successful family band that went on tour with carnivals and other shows. Before finally deciding on the tenor sax, Lester studied violin, trumpet, and drums. He left the family band to go out on his own in the mid '20s. He spent a year touring with Art Bronson's Bostonians. In 1929 he returned to his family's band in New Mexico by this time, but stayed behind when they moved to California. In 1930 he decided to make his home in Minneapolis where he played with Eddie Barefield and various leaders at the Nest Club. In 1932 Young made an important move and joined the original 13 members of the Blue Devils. While with the Blue Devils, Lester met the great guitarist,Charlie Christian. When the Blue Devils disbanded in1933, Lester made Kansas City his home where he played with Bennie Moton, King Oliver, and Fletcher Henderson, who at that time was on tour with his star saxophonist, Coleman Hawkins. Early in 1934 Lester went to work for Count Basie, beginning an association that eventually led to national recognition. After only several months, he left the Count to sub for Hawkins in the Henderson orchestra. Henderson's sidemen didn't particularly care for Young's very different approach to the saxophone however, and the job came to an abrupt end. By 1936 Lester was back with Basie, and by the end of that year he made his first recordings. His wonderful solos on "Lady Be Good" and "Shoe Shine Boy" were immediately recognized by musicians, many of whom copied them note-for-note. During the next few years Lester's fame grew, along with Basie's. During the early part of the 1940s Lester performed as a freelance and then again joined Basie. He became a favorite of a whole new generation of tenor players, influencing people like Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, and Sonny Rollins. In 1944 Young was drafted into the army, which turned out to be a nightmarish experience. He was discovered using drugs and was court-martialed. He served several months in the base stockade, he was then discharged in late 1945. He resumed performing and recording in Los Angeles, and produced a masterpiece, "These Foolish Things". Beginning in the mid '40s Lester spent part of almost every year touring with Jazz At The Philharmonic, and touring the rest of the time with his own small group. By this time his reliance on alcohol and drugs had become a serious health problem, and from about 1953 until his death, his recordings were noticeably less consistent, yet he was still able to produce some of his best work on concert recordings, such as "Prez in Europe" in 1956. He became increasingly dependent on alcohol, and on several occasions he was hospitalized. In 1959 he returned to New York from Paris, and then became severely ill. Lester Young died in 1959.
Med Flory, Saxophone, 1926, Logansport, IN
Med, who played most of the reed instruments, played clarinet and alto sax with ClaudeThornhill, and was then a tenor soloist with Woody Herman's band in the mid '50s. Around 1957 he formed his own group in New York, and two years later moved to California where he organized a big band that performed locally and in 1958, at the Monterey Jazz Festival. During this period he also performed and recorded with the big-band of Terry Gibbs and performed on the baritone sax with Art Pepper and Herman. During the 1960s Flory worked less frequently as a jazz musician, and devoted more time to writing screen plays and even acting in films and on television. Flory's famous group, Supersax, is devoted to the music of Charlie Parker. The concept for Supersax developed in a session with Pepper, during which the entire saxophone section played arrangements of Parker's improvisations. Flory later collaborated with Joe Maini on transcriptions of Parker's work. The project ended when Maini died in 1964, but was revived because of Buddy Clark's interest. Supersax was established in 1972, and the next year won a Grammy Award for it's first recordings. In 1975 Med became the sole leader of the group. Today, Med continues to record with the group, and considers it a tribute to Charlie Parker.