Soul Jazz Artist Conrad “Connie” Lester ~ A Tribute
My father, Conrad “Connie” Lester, passed away at the amazing age of 88 in 2019. He was a loving father and incredible jazz saxophonist who is part of the fabric of the history of jazz in the Northeast and beyond. He played with many of the greats – including Etta James, Roy Hanes, Kenny Burrell, Woody Shaw, Grant Green, soul jazz Hammond B 3 organ legends Freddie Roach, Jimmy McGriff and Rhoda Scott – and recorded on Blue Note and Prestige Records with iconic producer Rudy Van Gelder.
Below you can read jazz journalist Nate Chinen’s piece on what he meant to the jazz scene for over 65 years, published by WBGO-FM Jazz Radio, one of the premier jazz radio stations in the US; find links to journalist Barbara Kukla’s wonderful books on the history of jazz in New Jersey in which he is featured; and listen to three of my favorite of his recordings – one with Jimmy McGriff, the other two with Freddie Roach. Honored by the state of New Jersey and the City of Newark for his contributions “thru music and the sounds of jazz … and for his many gestures of hope and grand living,” he was one of the jazz luminaries featured in the New Jersey Performing Art Center’s “A Great Day in New Jersey” photo shoot. He will be sorely missed!
Articles and Books On Conrad “Connie” Lester
Nate Chinen (WGBO Jazz Radio): “Connie Lester, Soulful Saxophonist and Quiet Anchor of the Newark Jazz Scene”
Barbara Kukla: Swing City: Newark Lightlife, 1925-50
Barbara Kukla: America’s Music – Jazz In Newark
Connie Lester Discography
-“Racing Green – Guitar Solos, 1959 to 1962” (Guitarist Grant Green – Cherry Red Records, 2015)
-“The Funkiest Little Band in the Land” (B3 Organist Jimmy McGriff – Delta Records, 1996)
-“Cordon-Blue: Savour The Soul Sauce with Blue Note” (Collection includes “Mo Greens Please”/Freddie Roach, and various other artists, including Freddie Hubbard (“One Mint Julip) and Bud Powell (Collard Greens and Black Eyed Peas); Blue Note, 1993).
-“Main Squeeze” (Jimmy McGriff – Groove Merchants, 1976)
-“My People Soul People” (B3 Organist Freddie Roach – Prestige, 1967)
-“All That’s Good” (Freddie Roach – Blue Note,1964)
-“Mo’ Greens Please” (Freddie Roach – Blue Note, 1963)
-“Man With A Happy Sound” (Singer Joe Carroll – Charlie Parker Records, 1962)
Selected Music Featuring Conrad “Connie” Lester
“Mo’ Greens Please” – Connie Lester (tenor saxophone) (Hammond B3 Organist Freddie Roach’s “Mo Greens Please” LP, Blue Note Records, produced by Rudy Van Gelder, 1963)
“Misty” – Connie Lester (sax solo starts at 1 minute 50 seconds)
(Hammond B3 Organist Jimmy McGriff’s “Main Squeeze” LP, Groove Merchant Records, 2005)
“Blues for 007” – Connie Lester (tenor saxophone)
(Hammond B3 Organist Freddie Roach’s “All That’s Good” LP, Blue Note Records, produced by Rudy Van Gelder, 1965)