BILLY LESTER

"Unabridged" Review

Davor Hrvoj

English Translation by Marta Stemberger

Original Croation Review on Sound Guardian

On his sixth album, the second solo one, recorded in 2012, 2013, and 2014, the pianist Billy Lester once again proves to be an unusual and unique musician. This is also the first time that he fully documents the improvised performances, the ones that happened spontaneously, in the moment of inspiration. Of course, they were born from his rich experience, which in musical sense includes the study of the music of the greats – not only the pianists – such as Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Lester Young and Charlie Parker, as well as Lennie Tristano, the closest to his character, and his mentor Sal Mosca. Besides, Lester is familiar with the work of the classical music greats, including Bach, Beethoven, Bartok, and Chopin, who inspired him to develop into an individual, free, and unique artist. What's musically most important and interesting on this album is the inseparableness of Lester as a composer and instrumentalist. Dedicated to the contemporary jazz expression, he leaves the genre limitations behind in his performances, creating his own, extravagant expression, based on free improvisation, the expression which shall not win him a large public for sure. Such are performances of the compositions “Jamba Swing” and “Blues for Charlie Christian”, dedicated to the influential guitarist, active during the swing era. Of course, this is not about swing or some other subgenre of traditional jazz, but about musical abstraction. In some performances, repetition plays an important role, reminding of Mal Waldron. But this impression is short lived, appearing and disappearing again, to finally form into the Billy Lester Jazz.