Playing with Prez was something | Miles Davis on Lester Young, 1990

Lester Young & Miles Davis, 1950s 
photo: Burt Goldblatt

And then I met “The President,” Lester Young, when he would come down from Kansas City 
to play in St.  Louis.  He’d have Shorty McConnell on trumpet in his band, and sometimes I’d 
come over with my horn to where they were playing and sit it.  Man, playing with Prez was 
something.  I learned a lot from the way he played the saxophone.  As a matter of fact,
 I tried to transpose some of his saxophone licks over to my trumpet.


Lester Young & Miles Davis, 1956

He called me Midget.  Lester had a sound and an approach like Louis Armstrong, only he
 had it on tenor sax.  Billie Holiday had that same sound and style; so did Budd Johnson and 
that white dude, Bud Freeman.  They all had that running style of playing and singing.  That’s 
the style I like, when it’s running.  It floods the tone.  It has a softness in the approach and
 concept, and places emphasis on one note.  I learned to play like that from Clark Terry.  I used
 to play like he plays before I was influenced by Dizzy and Freddie ( Webster), before I got 
my own style.  But I learned about that running style from Lester Young.


Lester Young & Miles Davis, 1955

Bird never talked about music, except one time I heard him arguing with a classical musician 
friend of mine.  He told the cat that you could do anything with chords.  I disagreed, told him 
that you couldn’t play D natural on the fifth bar of a B flat blues.  He said you could.  One night
 later on at Birdland, I heard Lester Young do it, but he bent the note.  Bird was there when it 
happened he just looked over at me with that “I told you so” look that he would lay on you 
when he had proved you wrong.

Miles: The Autobiography, 1990


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