Lester Young: I Want To Be Happy


I Want To Be Happy


Nat 'King' Cole (piano), Lester Young (tenor sax), and Buddy Rich (drums)


Lester Young Trio (Verve 314 521 650)

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Nat 'King' Cole (piano), Lester Young (tenor sax), Buddy Rich (drums).

Composed by Irving Caesar & Vincent Youmans


Recorded: Los Angeles, March or April 1946


Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

Many critics and writers still insist that Lester Young’s artistry was in decline when he was dishonorably discharged from the Army in December 1945. “I Want to Be Happy” begs to differ. From the bright introductory phrase of his first solo, it’s clear that Prez still has spring in his step and joy in his phrasing. The only difference to speak of is a breathier tone and a slightly lower pitch—probably more attributable to his use of a plastic reed than to a broken spirit—and they don’t stop him from swinging harder than ever before, especially on his second (closing) solo. No doubt he’s helped along by the impeccable timing of Cole’s piano and the unswerving brilliance of Rich’s drums. Despite his revolution in the ‘30s, it was this postwar period that would be Young’s most successful, and “I Want to Be Happy” shows why.

Reviewer: Michael J. West

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