[Young, Lester. (1909–1959)]
"New Orleans Strutters" - Vintage Photograph with teenage Lester Young
An extraordinary and very rare vintage photograph of the 1920's jazz band "The New Orleans Strutters," including the teenage Lester "Prez" Young, shown standing on an outdoor stage in front of a large poster with their name. The musicians shown, wearing marching-band-style outfits, include brass, percussion, and clarinet; also shown behind them are a group of other performers, presumably dancers, including a man and a boy in blackface. Lester Young is the young saxophonist in plus-fours in the front row. Photograph rather wrinkled, laid down to a larger sheet with some water damage at the foot. Overall very good. Photograph 13.5 x 10.5 inches (34 x 26.5 cm), overall size 20 x 16 inches (50.5 x 40.5 cm).
From the collection of internationally known ragtime pianist and historian Johnny Maddox, Gallatin, TN.
The New Orleans Strutters, a 1920's jazz band, are remembered as the training grounds for the young saxophonist Lester "Prez" Young. The touring band was organized by Young's father, Billy Young, in Minneapolis. They toured as a side show with circuses and carnivals in the summer, and in the winter performed in theaters. The group's act mixed music with dance and vaudeville. The band "consisted of two trumpets, two trombones, three saxophones, piano, banjo, tuba, and drums. [...] This simple but immensely flexible set-up has been described as the first entirely new orchestral format in Western music since the emergence of the symphony orchestra in the mid-eighteenth century. Its two most radical innovations were the rhythm section, introduced via marching bands and military music, and the saxophone." (Dave Gelly, Being Prez: The Life and Music of Lester Young, pp. 11-12). Lester left the band at age 18 to tour with another ensemble, The Bostonians, and a few years later joined Count Basie's band.
This is one of the earliest known musical photographs of the artist who Billie Holiday later dubbed "Prez," short for "President of the Tenor Saxophone." His melodic style influenced subsequent generations of saxophonists, including Charlie Parker and Stan Getz. Famous for his porkpie hat and his hipster language - he is said to have popularized the use of the term "cool" to mean something fashionable - he finally succumbed, after a long struggle, to alcoholism at the age of 49