Wanna Hear Some Music?

Mosaic Records -- one of the truly marvelous specialty re-issue houses that have sprung up in recent years, specializing in jazz recordings of the '30s through the '50s -- have just released a 4-disc set of the Lester Young/Count Basie sessions (1936-40) that is a true marvel of nature. Lester Young, for my money, was the greatest sax player ever -- all you Coltrane-istas, spare me your invective, please; chacun a son gout, as they say -- and these are some of the best performances you're likely to hear. There's some small group stuff (including a half-dozen tracks from a session with Basie, Young, Benny Goodman on clarinet, Charlie Christian on guitar, and Philly Jo Jones on drums -- now that's some serious talent for one group) and some big band stuff, and it's all pretty consistently spectacular. Highly recommended.

And if you're unfamiliar with Young and understandably unwilling to splurge for a 4-disc set just on my say-so, there are lots of 1-disc compilations out there worth having. The best, imho, may well be the one put together as a tie-in with Ken Burns' "Jazz" documentary from a few years ago -- a fairly execrable documentary, but the tie-in compilation CDs they released were generally quite good, and the Lester Young volume is really wonderful.