WHY MAKE A FILM ABOUT LESTER YOUNG?
Rolling Stone’s founding editor Ralph Gleason said, “If you don’t know Pres, you’ve missed a great part of America.” Pres was born Lester Willis Young in 1909 in a purgatory for African-Americans called Mississippi. He was raised in a nether world between slavery and Jim Crow. Yet in the face of the soul destroying forces of segregation Lester chose beauty. Music was his life. “It was all music, that’s all there was.”
Lester Young was the most influential musician during the period between Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker. Billie Holiday gave her favorite player the moniker because he was jazz royalty. King, Count and Duke were taken. Lady Day bestowed upon him the highest office of jazz in America.
Lester’s pursuit of originality and beauty created a place for culture to flourish. In the jazz clubs of New Orleans, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City and Paris musicians created a listening space that brought all people together. As America evolved this became a community that in 2008 helped elect an African-American President.
The mission of this film is to present and preserve Lester Young’s legacy by rediscovering and interpreting his life through the lens of American culture. To inform a new generation who knows little of this time and the musicians who played jazz on the front lines of a battlefield that still burns.