1944 Lester Young

Comment Al Porcino:
My man Lester Young. For me, Lester Young was – and still is – the greatest Jazz musician of all times. Incredible, how good he was playing in the late 30’s with Count Basie. Those solos – I have a book with all his solos – are better than anything that’s around today. It’s unbelievable how far ahead he was. And such a beautiful guy. I’m like him. He liked nice things. He always used the word pretty and he liked everything pretty, the music and so forth. Prez. They called him the president. Billie Holiday gave him that Spitzname. She said, “You know we got to get a name for Lester Young.” And she said, “Well here in America you got – in Europe you got Kings and Earls and all that. Here in America the big man is the President. So let’s call Lester the President”, and for sure they called him Prez. Lester “Prez” Young. His brother played drums, Lee Young, but he wasn’t really anything special. But this guy for me was the greatest musician of all times. Lester “Prez” Young, incredible how good he played.
Did you ever play together?
I don’t think so, unless one time I sat in with the Basie band at the Hotel Lincoln. That was in 1944 I think or ‘46. And that was a kick playing with Basie’s band.
Was it a session?
No, it was a gig in the Hotel Lincoln in their beautiful …. All the hotels had a big room – dining room – but at one end was a big stage and the bands would play.
That was a fantastic era when all the bands where playing in all the big hotels, all the theatres, all the clubs. Unbelievable how that all disappeared. And now I’m stuck with this lousy Rock…….


1943 Louis Prima

Comment Al Porcino:
This is my first big band, Louis Prima, that’s in the theatre in Passaic, New Jersey, 1943. I was 18 years old then, my first big band, and going on tour. We went from the East Coast to the West Coast.
So, one of the first pictures ever?
One of the first professional pictures. That’s Charles Collin on the right there, the big guy. He was my trumpet teacher when I was in High School. So, he came to check out the trumpet players and to see how I was doing in my first professional band.