Recently I decided that my life isn’t interesting enough and got involved in an interesting adventure — writing lyrics for a jazz tune!
Here’s the story: during my masters studies I had to prepare a 40-minute long program, I thought — well, it’s a new era of me becoming a cool jazz cat, why not make a tribute to someone really awesome, like, for example, Wayne Shorter? So it was decided, a tribute to Wayne Shorter it is! But here’s the deal, not all tunes I had chosen had lyrics, that’s when I decided that I just had to make it all with actual words, instead of singing shubadubidah in one of the tunes. As you can guess from the title of this post — the tune was «Lester Left Town».
Here’s a tiny demo of the tune with the brand new lyrics and the story about how I did it
I decided that I don’t want to write just something that is totally unrelated to the relationships between Wayne and Lester, I thought, that if Shorter has dedicated a tune to Young, then there should be something in all of it, so I started digging. I have listened to almost every interview Lester Young gave, I found interviews with Wayne Shorter, sharing his thoughts on Lester, articles about Lester from different authors, even a blog, completely dedicated to Lester Young, the president of beauty. I was so desperate to make the lyrics good, that I spent hours trying to link Shorter to Young and describe them and their relationships as precisely as possible. And yes, I decided to write the lyrics as if Wayne did it himself because he seemed to be so passionate about Young, I just couldn’t ignore it. And I wanted to make it personal.
So, here’s what I came up with after all the digging, with explanations, yeeeey!
So here’s a story that I want to share with you
It is about a legendary cat I knew
When Lady Day gave him his new name that he would carry proud*
And well, she nailed it, cause then he played it
She called him mister president** because she knew
That he would leave a legacy and now it’s true
They say he was a river between Louie and Bird***
It was amazing, just how he did his thing
He floated in his music and his life
With his horn right on the side#
He said: «You’ve got to be unique and original and just do your thing»##
So here’s a message that he left to all the cat’s
You’ve got to be yourself and don’t you have regrets
The Pork Pie Hat### still lives with us although he left the town
I won’t forget him, just how I met him####
* For those who don’t know, Lady Day is Billie Holliday, she and Lester were incredibly close.
**And it was her who gave him the nickname Pres or Prez, here’s a quote (taken from HERE): «I always felt he was the greatest, so his name had to be the greatest. I started calling him the President.»
*** I found an article where someone asked Gillespie about Young being a bridge between Armstrong and Parker, a figure, linking it all together, and in response Dizzie laughed and said, that Young was definitely not a bridge, rather a river, splitting them apart. I thought it is worth mentioning, since Young is such a cool guy :)
# This one is taken from an interview with Wayne Shorter, where he tells the story about how he met Lester Young, he said that Prez was playing holding his saxophone sort of on the side, in an unusual position. And the part about «floating in his music and his life» — Scott Deveaux described his playing as «free-floating» (it is the first thing you can read in a wiki article about Young), and then another interesting article tells us that he moved slowly, I thought it might fit to «floating», since moving slow reminded me of it. By the way, this article is very exciting, because it tells us the story of a meeting with Lester from a point of view of a photographer and admirer, not a musician or music critic.
## In an interview Lester Young gave to Chris Albertson for WCAU radio, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 24, 1958, he said that first of all, all sax players sound the same, and if you want to be cool, you have to have individual style, and secondly — that he himself is always trying to find new tricks, so that’s why «you’ve got to be unique»
### Lester Young was, by the way, a very important person in hipster culture, he had basically invented the slang that is still used. Concerning the hat — it was a certain model, it was called «pork pie» because the shape and crease of the crown and the narrowness of the brim. Lester Young used to wear one of those all the time, so the name stuck to him, that’s why, for example, Charles Mingus named a tune «Goodbye Pork Pie Hat» when Lester Young passed away. And one more thing, not related to Lester — it was a huge surprise to me, that hipsters have existed way longer than I am. Latvia has experienced the sunrise of hysteria only recently, or maybe it is just a rebirth.
#### In the same interview with Wayne Shorter I mentioned before, I learned that meeting Lester was a very meaningful event in Shorters life, and not just because it was kind of a the last chance, because a couple of weeks after the meeting Young died, but after all, Young has inspired a whole world of jazz musicians, including Shorter, I thought, I just had to mention this fact in the lyrics, since it’s all written as if Shorter did it himself, and not a tiny insignificant me.
That is it, I hope someone finds my lyrics suitable for singing, and I also hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this small story!
P.S.: I know that the lyrics I sang are a bit different from what I wrote here, my bad. Just couldn’t stop myself from trying to make them sound perfect!