42. Lester Young with the Oscar Peterson Trio (1952)
For the most part, this disc is all about Lester, who performs admirably but is noticeably shakier and lacks that bright, bursting energy he exhibited a few years earlier. He frequents the lower register in soft, emotionally inflected lines that give the ballads a uniquely personal treatment. It's unmistakably Lester on every track and there is some very keen playing ("I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)" is just one example, or a close approximation of the man we once knew in "Just You, Just Me") but in other places I hear him struggle with timing and the impact of the inventiveness is lost. The dramatic ascents and nose dives he used to do so well seem to sputter like an injured bird, rather than a stunt pilot. Young usually takes the first chorus, and sometimes afterwards I swear I can hear Peterson and Kessel emulating his style on their instruments, playing several "even" bars before throwing the rhythmic weight of the next phrase off to one side and rushing in after it. Even if he isn't in the same form as the recordings from 1946-1949, he's still Lester Young and when it works, it's untouchable.