Friday, August 14, 2009

After Hours

Lester Young & a bunch of jazz guys. Jammin' the Blues

Gosh, where to start with this? OK, it's the last tune and title track of a three-track short film made by Gjon Mili in 1944. Lester Young and hotshot Illinois Jacquet are both on the tenor saxophone. Young is the guy who's seated and appears to be smoldering throughout the whole tune. As far as equipment goes, Jacquet is either on a Conn 30M or a King Super 20. You can't tell what Lester's playing, but it's probably a Conn 10M or Chu Berry. You'll notice a difference in their playing styles. Lester plays in this quiet, angular fashion that made him the legend that he is. Jacquet, on the other hand, is all about the bombast. And who can blame him? He was something like 19 or 20 years old at the time. One of the things he liked to do was to jump up to what they called the "freak register." He just gets up there and hangs. It's a pretty impressive trick if you don't use it too much.

There's just so much that's good and wonderful about this old clip that it's difficult to find the words. The way it portrays the intimacy and effect of the music is mega-fantastic. Although I wouldn't call this a music video per se, it does employ some abstractions that are very familiar in music videos today. But this was made all the way back in 1944 by an Albanian-born director who basically never worked again. This sort of vocabulary didn't exist before. It's really something to behold. I first saw Jammin' the Blues in its entirety when I was in high school and I remember thinking, "Now that's the way to make music!" And you know what? It still is.

Other notables in the band include Harry Edison on trumpet, Barney Kessel on guitar, Marlowe Morris on piano, John Simmons on bass and Jo Jones on drums.

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