Lester Leaps In

The improvisational devices of Lester Young


  • Jon P. De Lucia City College of New York




Count Basie, jazz improvisation, Lester Young, saxophone solo


Lester Young was a key figure in the early development of swing. In this article, I will discuss some of the more specific improvisatory elements he used regularly throughout his recorded solos in this time period. His famous solo on ‘Lester Leaps In' will be the starting point for this analysis, with a special focus on some of the innovations that Young brought to the world of jazz improvisation. Bebop, cool jazz, and free jazz all owe a debt to Lester for loosening the structures of swing, while creating a new vocabulary. We will take a look at how he did it, and what has made him a lasting icon of creativity to so many improvisers.

Author Biography

  • Jon P. De Lucia, City College of New York

    Jon P. De Lucia is a jazz saxophonist based in New York City. He has released four albums as a leader, most recently the Jon De Lucia Octet with Ted Brown on Gut String Records. He has also published a book of saxophone studies inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach titled Bach Shapes. He is an Adjunct Professor at the City College of New York and along with presenting at regional conferences and touring he teaches woodwinds privately in New York City.   


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How to Cite

De Lucia, J. P. (2018). Lester Leaps In: The improvisational devices of Lester Young. Jazz Research Journal, 11(2), 153-176. https://doi.org/10.1558/jazz.31107