If the ghost of Lester Young flits overhead as Three Saxes for Lester gets under way at Blues Alley tomorrow night, it won't be simply because the group features music associated with the great saxophonist. The fact is, the histories of the three reed players who will interpret the work of "PreZ" contain links of a sort to the late tenorist.
Alto and soprano player Byron Morris' father, also a saxophonist, was in the reed section of Jay McShann's band in the early '40s. McShann's band shared some musicians with the Count Basie Orchestra, of which Young was then a member. And the younger Morris studied under Frank Foster, one of several tenorists who succeeded Young in the Basie band.
"Watergate" Clyde Dickerson, the group's senior member, heard Young play many times in the early days and "sounds a lot like Lester," says Foster, who often performed with Young. Then there's Ron Holloway, a local enfant terrible on the tenor who's too young to have heard the "Prez" but has blown with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, who also shared a bandstand with Young on occasion.
Three Saxes for Lester is actually a sextet, utilizing a rhythm section made up of pianist Wade Beach, bassist Ephraim Woolfolk and drummer Mel Hardy.