Great Solos: Lester Young, "Sometimes I'm Happy"


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An Occasional Series

The tenor saxophonist recorded this masterpiece in 1943 with pianist Johnny Guarnieri, bassist Slam Stewart and drummer Sid Catlett. He had rejoined Count Basie in high spirits. They were to be dashed the following year when he was drafted into a depressing Army experience, but this is the buoyant pre-war Lester.

Prez's final 12 bars made such an impression on Oscar Peterson that he almost never played “Sometimes I'm Happy" without quoting them at the end. Peterson was far from the only musician who bonded with the phrase. For a generation of tenor saxophonists, it was part of the doxology. Pianist Jack Brownlow, who played with Young in Los Angeles after the war, wrote lyrics to it. With permission of the Brownlow estate, here they are. Feel free to play it again and sing along beginning at 2:48.

I can find a ray on the rainiest day.
If I am with you, the cloudy skies all turn to blue.
My disposition really changes when you're near.
Every day's a happy day with you, my dear.

© Jack Brownlow, 1995

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This story appears courtesy of Rifftides by Doug Ramsey.
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