Lester Young & Oscar Peterson: Stardust




Lester Young (tenor sax) and Oscar Peterson (piano)


Lester Young with the Oscar Peterson Trio (Verve 314 547 087)

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Lester Young (tenor sax), Oscar Peterson (piano), Barney Kessel (guitar), Ray Brown (bass), J.C. Heard (drums).

Composed by Mitchell Parish & Hoagy Carmichael


Recorded: New York, November 28, 1952


Rating: 87/100 (learn more)

Lester’s alcoholism had caught up with him by the early ‘50s, robbing him of his prowess on the saxophone. “Stardust” finds his hold on the notes wavering, his gait is stiff and heavy, and he’s audibly blowing much harder to get a sound from his reed. Indeed, there are only glimpses of the recognizable Prez, such as in the first four bars of his second chorus. Nevertheless, Young captures the wistful, dreamy romance of Hoagy Carmichael’s melody, even if it’s a little bit sadder than the nostalgia Carmichael wrote about. The accompaniment is appropriately subtle, too—Oscar Peterson unusually subtle, while Kessel, Brown and Heard spend much of the record in imperceptibility. Like Parker’s “Lover Man,” Young’s “Stardust” is a portrait of an artist at his most tortured, managing to wring fine work out of his own sudden ineptitude.

Reviewer: Michael J. West

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