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Lester Young (1906-56) is often remembered as much for his idiosyncrasies as for his monumental influence as an improviser. His trademark wide-brim porkpie hat, his style of cocking his head and holding his saxaphone almost perpendicular to his body, his high-pitched voice, and his unique and sometimes incomprehensible vocabulary all contribute to the common misperception of Young as somewhat of an oddity who, after demonstrating his genius as a soloist with the Count Basie Orchestra in the thirties, never attained that level again. These three publications help to debunk that myth and to provide readers with a much clearer understanding of Young through his music and words, and through individuals who were closely associated with him.
The two books by Frank Buchmann-M[phi]ller, the Danish jazz saxophonist and librarian, are designed as a two-volume set, their titles taken from Young's interview quotes. You Just Fight for your Life is the most detailed biography of Young in existence. Combining scholarly thoroughness with forward motion and readability, it is accessible yet certain to become a reference for future research. Laid out chronologically,, this biography avoids a sensational approach, keeping the reader's interest by providing fascinating answers to basic questions surrounding Young's personal style, while setting the record straight concerning his life story.
Some of the minor points covered are the most memorable: the drummer Willie Jones's explanation of Lester's habit of addressing everyone as "Lady" regardless of …