LESTER YOUNG (1909-1959)
This Conn tenor saxophone, as his signed certificate of authenticity
notes, was the one used by the unique and seminal stylist fondly
known as "Prez" during the key years when, as a star soloist
in Count Basie's band, he introduced a new way of playing his chosen
instrument to the world and made those immortal records with Billie
Holiday. It was the great singer who dubbed him "Prez,"
and he returned the compliment with "Lady Day". Young
donated the horn to Marshall Stearns, founder of the Institute of
Jazz Studies, in 1955. (Also shown: Billie Holiday's plastic gardenia
used when a fresh flower wasn't available and a gift from an anonymous
friend of the singer.)
BEN WEBSTER (1909 - 1973)
This French Selmer "Balanced Action" tenor saxophone was made in
1938, the year before its owner became the first to be featured
on his instrument in the great Duke Ellington Orchestra, putting
his stamp on recorded masterpieces like "Cotton Tail," which he
had a hand in composing, and "All Too Soon." Dubbed "Ol' Betsy"
by its owner, it did not leave his side until his death in Holland
(Webster spent the final decade of his life in Europe). No tenor
saxist has matched his ballad prowess or contrasting up-tempo brusqueness.
The horn was a gift of the late Michiel de Reuyter.
MILES DAVIS (1926 - 1991)
This custom-made and specially engraved Martin trumpet, a gift
of Mr. Davis, is pitched in C rather than the more common B-flat,
a configuration frequently encountered in classical music but rarely
in jazz. Davis experimented with it after he'd begun to employ electronics.
Unquestionably one of the most influential musicians in jazz, not
only as a trumpeter but as a trend-setting band leader through more
than four decades, he was a brilliant talent spotter, furthering
the careers of, among others, John Coltrane, Gil Evans and Herbie
ROY ELDRIDGE (1911 - 1989)
This Getzen trumpet, a gift from Mr. Eldridge himself in 1980 that
included the rhinestone-studded mouthpiece, was his backup horn in the
later years of his illustrious career as one of the great trumpet stylists
in the history of jazz. Leader of his own bands, big and small, featured
star with Gene Krupa, Artie Shaw and Jazz at the Philharmonic, Eldridge,
nicknamed "Little Jazz," was the idol and model of young Dizzy
Gillespie and influenced countless others. He was also an engaging vocalist.
DON BYAS (1912 - 1972)
This Dolnet tenor saxophone, made in France, was used by the erstwhile
star of Count Basie's band (he replaced Lester Young) and New York's
52nd Street (he was in the Dizzy Gillespie group that introduced bebop
to "Swing Street" in late 1943) during the quarter century
he spent in Europe (like Ben Webster, he died in Amsterdam, and like
Webster, he was a master balladeer). Noted for the beauty of his tone,
Byas went to Europe in 1946 with Don Redman's band, and only returned
to the United States for a few months in 1970 - 71. The horn, purchased
from Byas's widow, has a unique octave key in the shape of a snake.
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