George Wein - Blog

Transcript of George Wein

George Wein: That's one of the funniest stories. I had a lot of chutzpah saying I was going to play with Lester. I loved the Basie style and the swing era. I'm not a-- I'm still not a bebop player. I play more modern than I used to, but I played sort of a simple, Basie, Teddy Wilson style of piano playing. Lester had great piano players who played with him in the previous eight or ten years of his life, but they'd all been bebop piano players. So I put together a band with Buck Clayton on trumpet, who'd played with Prez in the old Basie band, and I had a good bass player and a drummer. And so Prez came in by himself, and was sitting talking, and he says, "Who's going to be on trumpet, Prez?" He would call me Prez, since I was the boss. I said, "Buck Clayton." "Oh, Lady Clayton, that's fine, man." I said, "Marcus Foster," to him. "Who's going to be on piano, Prez?" "Well, I'm going to be on piano, Prez." "You're going to be on piano, Prez?" And this conversation went on like that. "Well, I know your tunes, Prez." "Oh, well, cool, Prez." So we get on the stage -- he won't get on the stage. And I said, "What do you want to play, Prez?" "Whatever your feelings, Prez." I said, "Well, how about 'Pennies from Heaven?'" He said, "That's cool, Prez." I said, "What key?" "Whatever your feelings, Prez." He wouldn't get on the stage. And I said, "What tempo?" "As you wish, Prez." So I started playing. I played a chorus, and I said, "Prez?" He says, "Have another helping, Prez." I had to play four choruses. After I played four choruses, Prez picked up his horn and came on the stage and said, "You and I are going to be alright, Prez." And my heart just went like this. I said, "Thank God. I mean, I had a lot of guts, because I wasn't that good a piano player. But I did know how to comp for him and play simply, not get in his way, and we had a ball.

In this excerpt from the podcast, Wein describes the evening at Storyville when he played piano in a set with the legendary saxophonist, Lester Young---who was known to everyone as "Prez." [1:54]