April 14, 2006 Rare Jazz Recordings Uncovered

1940s Lester Young Jam Session Recording Discovered

Press Contact: Sheryl Cannady (202) 707-6456

During a news conference announcing the fourth annual National Recording Registry, the Library of Congress also announced the discovery of a jam session featuring jazz great Lester Young. Speaking on the Young discovery, Loren Schoenberg, executive director of the Jazz Museum in Harlem, said, “Yes, this was Lester’s absolute zenith and there is precious little extant from this period. Imagine a new Shakespearean sonnet, Chopin nocturne or Hemingway short story – that's what we have here – an American master, a true iconoclast, at his very best.”

Three disc sides were found among a donated collection of about 150 16-inch lacquer discs -- a fragile, pre-tape recordable format -- which will be digitally preserved by the Library as part of its continuing digital preservation initiative. Eugene DeAnna, head of the Library’s Recorded Sound Section, said that no one previously knew about this hidden jazz treasure, and he spoke about the compelling story behind the discovery, which was simply labeled “Jam Session, December 29, 1940”:

“The outer sleeve had some pencil marks showing first names that would be of great interest to jazz aficianados – Doc, J. C., Shad and, most intriguing, L. Young,” DeAnna recalled. “When our audio engineer cued the disc, we were delighted to find a jam session featuring Lester Young leading a small band in an unidentified nightclub.” Young was accompanied by Shad Collins on trumpet, Doc West on drums, J.C. Higginbotham on trombone and Sammy Price on piano.

The recording is especially significant because it was recorded during a vital period in Young’s career, when little of his work survives. According to DeAnna, it is speculated that Young was performing at the famous Village Vanguard in New York City. “At one point the emcee announces that the chile con carne is ready,” DeAnna said.

A similar announcement was made at last year’s National Recording Registry news conference, when the Library announced that historically significant concert tapes, featuring the legendary jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk and iconic saxophonist John Coltrane, had been uncovered in the Library’s recorded sound collection during preparation for preservation. Those recordings were released as a top-selling CD in 2005, under the title “Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall.”

Larry Appelbaum, the Library’s Recording Lab supervisor and jazz specialist who discovered the Monk-Coltrane tapes, will lecture on “Hunting for Jazz Treasures: Discovering the Monk-Coltrane Tapes,” at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19, in the Mary Pickford Theater, LM 301, James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave., Washington, D.C.

The Library of Congress (www.loc.gov) is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution and the world's largest library with more than 132 million items, which includes nearly 2.8 million sound recordings. The Library's Recorded Sound Section holds the largest number of radio broadcasts in the United States – more than 500,000.


PR 06-092
ISSN 0731-3527