Jonathan Doyle :: Tenor Saxophone
J.D. Pendley :: Guitar
Brooks Prumo :: Rhythm Guitar
Ryan Gould :: Bass
Hal Smith :: Drums
All songs by Jonathan Doyle
Recorded Sunday, 19 January 2014
Recorded and mixed by Stuart Sullivan at Wire
Mastered by Alex Hall
Album Art by Magda Boreysza
Lester Young never made speeches, but he had much to tell us, more often by his example than in words. Sweetness counts. Floating is all. Sing your own song. The members of the Jonathan Doyle Quintet know these truths. Better, they embody them.
While Lester was alive and in the decades after, he and his approach were copied – verbatim in some cases – by people who thought they could take on his majesty by appropriating his gestures. Some saxophonists attempted to become lighter-than-air; often they only sounded bloodless. Others tried to impersonate Lester's cool without realizing it came from within; it was deeper than a chin tuft and a hipster hat.
The JDQ honors but doesn't copy.
Remaining themselves, they evoke Lester and his friends – Eddie Durham and Charlie Christian, Walter Page, Freddie Green, and Jo Jones (with Dexter Gordon, Herschel Evans, Rodney Richardson, Les Paul, George Barnes, Shadow Wilson and Sidney Catlett standing in the shadows) – most beautifully. And don't let the absence of a piano in this Quintet lead you to forget the Prime Mover, William Basie, who benignly stands behind it all.
There is so much music thrust upon us in this century that is the oppressive antithesis of Lester's truth: heavy, angry, self-indulgent – that this CD and the band that created it are both hopeful manifestations of light spirits. Even the blue Southwestern shadows of this music don't make it weighty, indigestible.
Lester had an alchemical approach to familiar chord sequences: add a bridge to a blues to create the mournful BLUE LESTER; speed up the chord sequence to WILLOW WEEP FOR ME and invent a new melody line to have TAXI WAR DANCE. When pianist John Lewis worked with Lester in 1950-51, he noticed that Lester's solo on PENNIES FROM HEAVEN the second night of their gig was a development of the solo he had played the night before. The songs that the JDQ offers on this disc are, for the most part, variations on variations, but they never sound stale or derivative. One might hear the skeleton of JUST YOU, JUST ME, or 'WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS, but the results are floating, sweet, original, and uplifting.
Having other players copy him made Lester both puzzled and sad, but I think he would hear this disc as a genuine, loving tribute to his music and his soulful spirit.
words by Michael Steinman