Leslie A. Jones is legendary jazz saxophonist Lester Young in Willard Manus's "Prez" (photo by James Esposito)
Leslie A. Jones is legendary jazz saxophonist Lester Young in Willard Manus’s “Prez” (photo by James Esposito)
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Prez

 

Reviewed by Lovell Estell III

Chromolume Theater at the Attic

Through February 28

 
Mention John Coltrane, Miles Davis or Monk and jazz aficionados will immediately know who you’re talking about. The name Lester Young isn’t as widely known, however, having been — many would say — unjustly consigned to secondary status in the pantheon of the greats.  

 

But Young, with his virtuoso solo style, flair and language, is generally regarded as the driving influence on an entire generation of jazz musicians and “hipsters.” In his solo show, Leslie A. Jones portrays the brilliant tenor saxophonist, recreating his life and the times he lived in. The play is framed as an interview given to a French journalist two months before Young died.

 

Settled into a stylish Parisian hotel room (nicely done by director Daniel Edward Keough), with a pair of saxophones prominently displayed, the nattily attired Manus uncorks a bottle of absinthe, and artfully brings the man Billy Holiday nicknamed “Prez,” to life, from his early days in a family band all the way to his last opening night in Paris.

 

The show, spiced with slick riffs from the saxophone, is modestly entertaining. Jones does a good job of channeling Young, but the script is weighted down with a lot of needless digressions, and is in need of some judicious pruning and focus.

 

 

Chromolume Theatre at the Attic, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., Mid-City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through February 28. (323) 510-2688, theatre@chromolumeinc.com Running time: one hour, 30 minutes with no intermission.

 

 

 

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