The sound of Lester Young’s clarinet is beautiful and elusive. Whitney Balliett, I think, who always had the right word, called it “lemony,” and it lingers on the mind’s palate in just that way. There isn’t enough of it on record: a few solos with Basie, on record and live; the Kansas City Six session . . . but now we have about nineteen seconds of beauty — thanks to Loren Schoenberg, Bill Savory, and Herschel Evans, whose BLUE AND SENTIMENTAL (a close relation to CAN’T WE TALK IT OVER) is the foundation for this wistful, too-brief piece of music.
Play it once, play it a dozen times: music when soft voices die lives long in the memory. We celebrate Lester Young as we say a sad goodbye to him. A tender man, a joyously elliptical soul, too tender for this rough world, he blazed and left. ”What made us think he would comb grey hair?” said Yeats of another man, dead too soon.
May your happiness increase.