Happy Birthday Prez and Bird

Portrait of Lester Young, Famous Door, New York, N.Y., ca. Sept. 1946. Photograph by William P. Gottlieb.

Today, as will happen every other Friday for the next several months, additional batches of photographs from the William P. Gottlieb Collection have been uploaded to Flickr . This week’s set is particularly varied, with classic portraits of Duke Ellington, Billy Eckstine, Tommy Dorsey,  Doris Day, Nat “King” Cole, and Perry Como.  In addition to these portraits are photos taken at one of the jazz sessions Atlantic Records producer Ahmet Ertegun arranged at the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C.

The  Gottlieb Collection is so rich that we could blog about it every day.  In the Muse regularly highlights images from the collection to remember special birthdays, and this weekend marks the birthdays of two of the greatest of all jazz legends.

Tenor saxophonist Lester “Prez” Young was born on this day in 1909.  In a 2006 article for the Library of Congress Information Bulletin article, Larry Appelbaum, now a Music Division Reference Specialist, said, “Young was the link between the swing sound of Coleman Hawkins and the bebop of Charlie Parker.  He invented a new style, his own saxophone language. The way he played then is now the standard repertoire among sax players of today.” The article was on the occasion of Larry’s discovery of a rare lacquer recording of a 1940 jam session featuring Lester Young. Read more about this rare treasure, and its unlikely journey from the Margaret Mead Collection, here.

Portrait of Charlie Parker, Three Deuces, New York, N.Y., ca. Aug. 1947. Photograph by William P. Gottlieb.

The other jazz great we remember this weekend is none other than the aforementioned Charlie “Bird” Parker.  Read Gerry Mulligan‘s remembrance of Parker, and listen to excerpts of Parker’s music, in Jeru: An Oral Autobiography in the Performing Arts Encyclopedia. Put on your Lester Young records this weekend, starting with one of his classic solos for the Count Basie band like the eponymous “Lester Leaps In,” or his interplay with Billie Holiday (whose nickname, “Lady Day,” was Young’s invention). Put on your Charlie Parker records, too,  or head up to New York for the annual Charlie Parker Festival, held in Tompkins Square Park, a stone’s throw from the apartment on Avenue B that he called home. And remember, if you hear anybody playing jazz saxophone today, you’re hearing a piece of Prez and Bird.

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