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Lester Young electrified the jazz world with his dexterity and imagination. (Dennis Stock / Magnum Photos)

Lester Young Turns 100

Billie Holiday’s favorite musician, jazz great Lester “Prez” Young brought a hip, freewheeling sensibility to his saxophone playing

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He remains a powerful influence on the music. Wayne Shorter, Lee Konitz, Joe Lovano and Mark Turner—an elite list of contemporary saxophonists—have all professed deep admiration for Young, much as their predecessors did.

The late pianist John Lewis played in Young's band in the early '50s at about the time Lewis was forming the Modern Jazz Quartet. A kindred spirit, he said he regarded Young as "a living, walking poet" whose wounds in life had never healed. "Lester is an extremely gentle, kind, considerate person," he told Hentoff in 1956 or '57. "He's always concerned about the underdog. He always wants to help somebody. The way he seems to see being is: 'Here we are. Let's have a nice time.' "

Happy birthday, Prez.

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