The next several blog posts will work through a chorus of a Lester Young Solo. I am going to break this solo down phrase by phrase and provide time between posts for followers to learn and workout the phrases.
I love Young's solo on Pound Cake. In my mind this is a master solo by a master improviser. Let's take a look at what makes this a great solo. For starters, Young's use of the pentatonic scale makes this a very singable solo. Second, the phrasing here is textbook. Young's phrases over the blues are extremely well defined as well as the function of each phrase. Young provides a masterclass on how to phrase over the blues and how to build intensity through the phrases. Note - this is different then arbitrarily "using space" sure, there is space in the solo, but that isn't happening randomly. In Pound Cake, we get the space, but even more importantly we get really well defined blues phrasing.
Before we dive into the transcription, I want to remind you of the process that I like to take - Listen, Sing, Play, Write. I would listen to the track below at least 5-7 times before attempting to sing it. When you move onto the singing step, if you find you are struggling to sing certain pitches, go back and to the listening step and work to 'hear' those pitches better. Once you can sing it, attempt to play it. If you did your homework on the first two steps, that should be a relatively smooth process. If you find yourself struggling on a few notes, go back to the singing step and make sure you are able to find the pitch on your voice. And finally, after you can play the phrase, attempt to write it. Notice that we aren't writing until we can play the full phrases. This isn't about catching one note at a time, but rather hearing and playing phrases and then using the writing strategy merely to 'archive' the work.
Click Here to listen to phrase 1
A few things that I think are worth pointing out regarding this phrase. [Note - it would be good for you to have already done the transcribing work before reading what comes next] Lester uses a lot of pentatonic ideas. His solos on Lester Leaps in and Lady Be Good are also examples of pentatonics. I like to think of this as Triad plus the 6th. He is really playing the triad pus the six. In this case, it happens to be the 6th an octave lower. This is a really simple harmonic idea - and Lester shows us how effectively hip it can be.
Finally, to help you out a little bit with the writing, I have included the rhythm of the first phrase below: