Posted by: lesterlives | August 15, 2017

President of Beauty Appeal

the official site for President of Beauty –  the Life and Times of Lester Young.

Welcome to my crowd funding campaign. Haven’t seen my video appeal?  Please click above. If you want to learn more about the film’s history please  poke around.  If you like what you see and feel   this project is worth your support – please hit the Donate Button just below. This button will take you to a secure donation pay site set.  The site is administered by my non-profit the Center for Independent Documentary. CID has been my non-profit sponsor for all of my films. It has been instrumental in getting many independent documentary on public television.

Make a Secure Donation Now

Please explore the site.  View previous filmed vignettes created over the years.  Listen to the complete Lester Young / Francois Postif interview which launched the film.  Check out all the interviews under the media tab with  Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Branford Marsalis, Lee Konitz, BB King, Joe Lovano, Gunther Schuller, Monica Getz, Amiri Baraka, Archie Shepp and others.

All donations to the film  are tax-deductible.

Check out our PERKS.

  • Highest Bid over $8,000 Selmer Tenor Mark VI signed by Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Joe Lovano and Branford Marsalis –
  • Highest Bid over $2500 1942 Conn 10M Naked Lady Tenor
  • $1500 Lester Young 14 inch tall paper-mache statue by artist Susan Erony used in the film.
  • $500 dollars an original artist’s box.  When Lester was a small boy, Birth Records show Lee Young was born at on 2235 Harmony Street in 1914. This limited edition box contains an actual piece of wood from the about to be razed house where Lester lived.
  • $250 Henry Ferrini’s DVD’s on: Jack Kerouac, Charles Olson and Vincent Ferrini.
  • $100 Digital Download of finished film & Poster
  • $50 Digital Download of finished film.
  • $25 Poster with directors autograph.
  • $10 Film Postcard thank you signed by Director


Posted by: lesterlives | August 14, 2017

Crowd Funding for ANIMATION in President of Beauty

I collect flotsam and jetsam. I’m attracted by shape and the way light moves over surfaces. This sculpture of Lester Young has been growing in the garden, one way or another since I started working on my documentary President of Beauty. I found Lester’s head in the Atlantic ocean, his hat in Jack Kerouac’s hometown, on the banks of the Merrimack River and the horn was resurrected from a flea market.  Today, Lester watches over the flowers and weeds of my progress – my visual reminder that Lester Lives.

On February 6, 1959 François Postif interviewed Lester Young. This interview is the flash point for my film. The interview creates the narrative arc to Lester’s laughing, to keep from crying, life. This recording is the man in his own words. Listening to it I saw Prez slow walking the streets of Paris, in bed smoking, his green eyes below his Porkpie, sipping top & bottom, remembering Mississippi, New Orleans and his days with the “Holy Man”* I want to bring this interview ALIVE using animation.

I’m looking to create 15 minutes from the interview and I’m asking you, dear reader, to help.Last year I received an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. This allowed me to travel to Paris, Los Angeles, Albuquerque and New Orleans. Shooting in these places was a milestone for the film. The next milestone is to develop the animated sequence. With the animation blocked out and inserted into the rough-cut, I can begin to create the flow of the film. Then I will be ready to show potential broadcasters and additional funders at PBS, American Experience or ARTE the content and form. The sketch above is one of hundreds to be developed, then storyboards of the sequences and bringing together a team to execute the work. For this crowd funding campaign my goal is $30,000

I began this journey on August 27, 2009 at the corner of 52nd Street and Sixth Avenue. American composer and conductor David Amram came down to play and talk about Lester on his 100th birthday. Now, eight years later on Count Basie’s 113th birthday (August 21) I’m kicking off an Animation Crowd Funding Campaign. With your help I am ready to begin a most exciting part of President of Beauty.

Give a present to Prez.  Hit donate at the top of the page and check out the perks, several are one of a kind.  Or go back to the home page and watch the pitch video. Please share this with people who recognize that Lester’s story is long overdue and thanks for your time and consideration.





*Lester called Count Basie Holy Man, Holy Main or just Holy because he was the man who delivered the pay check.


Wayne Shorter

Henry Ferrini, shown with jazz icon Wayne Shorter, who appears in his film in progress, has won a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the arts to complete a documentary about jazz legend Lester young.

Henry Ferrini, a Gloucester documentary filmmaker, is among the recipients who received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which gave out more than $82 million for projects across the country.

Ferrini received an Art Works award of $20,000 to help fund the production of his ongoing documentary film about iconic jazz saxophonist Lester Young (1909-1959).

Click below to read the full article:

Filmmaker wins $20,000 to finish jazz documentary

Posted by: lesterlives | October 29, 2013

President of Beauty: The Life and Times of Lester Young



Trailer Click Below


“I was born in Woodville, Mississippi.” Lester Young was born August 27, 1909. His mother Lizetta left New Orleans and traveled up river to the family home in Woodville to have her first child.  This small Mississippi town is known for two wildly different Presidents:  Lester Willis Young and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Lester never spoke much about being from Mississippi. His actions spoke louder when he left his father’s band in the 1920’s because he didn’t want to submit to traveling the toxic landscapes of the south.  When I look into the eyes of Lester and his mother I wonder if Lizetta’s people were enslaved at the Rosemont Plantation that was owned by the Davis family.

War too had its effect on both men. The confederate president’s citizenship was revoked while Lester was court-martialed, imprisoned and dismissed with a dishonorable discharge.  When Pres finally left the detention barracks he transformed the poison of his incarceration into beautiful swing – writing D.B. Blues.  Pres didn’t talk much about the Army but laid down the sweet and the bitter in his music.  Gene Ramey says. “Every night those guards would get drunk and come out there and have target practice on his head.”  Lester said it was “a nightmare, man, one mad nightmare.”

In 1979 Jefferson Davis’s citizenship was fully restored by the United States Senate.  If this can happen certainly I could petition to change  Lester’s Dishonorable Discharge  to an honorable.   I secured a pro bono lawyer to help. He agreed to take up the cudgel.  The lawyer informed me that  in order to proceed  I needed the family’s imprimatur.  A letter was written to Dr. Lester Young Jr.  A  few weeks later a response was sent to the law offices in Boston. The response was definitive.  Dr. Young had no interest in opening the case.  I was  disappointed,  a missed opportunity.  This was a wonderful  way to set the record straight about a most honorable man and bring to light transgressions of history. C’est la guerre.



Here is a beautiful poem from Jamie Reid’s book on Lester Young.

Seventy years back,  Lester Young was in the Army.  He was suckered by a zoot suited officer and forced to enlist else go to prison.  He was later arrested for having drugs.  These were the same drugs he told the draft board about months earlier, that he needed, to get through the late nights and constant travel.  This was the life of an itinerant jazz musician.  Lester  was court-martialed, given a dishonorable discharge, and made to forfeit all pay and allowances due or to become due.  He was confined to hard labor and sent to the detention barracks at Fort Gordon, Georgia.  This is how the government chose to use the genius of Lester Young.  I submit his Dishonorable discharge should be revoked.  Seven months after the war was over the Army realized there was no point in keeping Private 39729502 Young.  Norman Granz then sent Pres a  plane ticket back to LA. The long nightmare was over.

On June 25th, 2015, Jaime Reid suddenly passed away.  He was 74 years old. The above film poem was finished just a few month previous to his passing.  For all those interested in the life of Lester Young, check out Jamie’s book Prez: Homage to Lester Young. It is one of the most evocative volumes I’ve read about Lester.

Photo by Brian Nation

Photo by Brian Nation



In 2014 Lester Young will have been gone 55 years, yet this swinging star shines brightly in the film-in-progress. In the film, Sonny Rollins calls Lester “god”, and a god he was for many players who paid their dues at mid-Century. The four-minute trailer includes interviews with Sonny Rollins, Harry Belafonte, Wayne Shorter, B.B. King, Lee Konitz, Joe Lovano, George Wein, David Amram, Amiri Baraka, Junior Mance, and Gunther Schuller. Collecting these interviews has been an ongoing process for about two years. Here are some pictures from the two-year journey that resulted in this trailer.

B.B. King

Phil Schaap

Wayne Shorter

Sonny Rollins

As a longtime documentary veteran, my approach uses contemporary places combined with archival film, interviews and music to evoke our shared history. In President of Beauty: The Life and Times of Lester Young, the music and America’s troubled social history combine to evoke a sense of this much-misunderstood American genius.

Years ago I began this process when I heard Phil Schaap play François Postif’s interview with Pres on the radio. I immediately knew this would be my next film. I wrote Postif inquiring about the rights. He in turn put me in touch with Michel DeLorme and I secured the rights. This historic forty-five minute audio interview recorded five weeks before Lester passed creates the narrative arc of the President of Beauty.

The film is now at a point where I need to work in the cities where Lester was domiciled. Shooting will take place in Los Angeles, New Orleans, Mississippi, Minneapolis, Paris and Kansas City with many more interviews to come. Ornette Coleman, René Urteger, Dan Morgenstern, Lewis Porter, and Don Byron. Interviews with artists, animation that visualizes Lester in his Paris Hotel, archival performances, and contemporary footage of Lester, comprise the visuals.

Today much has been accomplished on little funding. Having only shot interviews, my signature, as well as Lester’s, is not yet on this film. I need to catch the dawn over the Mississippi River, dusk at 12th Street and Vine, the rain on the streets of Paris and the intimate atmosphere of listening to jazz. Lester lives in these shadows of our cultural memory. I need your help to preserve what is here now by bringing Lester Young into focus. I need to connect with the world’s Presophiles to help raise the funding to tell Lester’s story with film. Thank you for your time and consideration. If you have any question please email.



Hal's Flyer for Web_Lester

In order to raise funds for the film, we are having a silent auction on a Selmer Mark VI tenor sax. #209100 This is no ordinary saxophone. The horn is signed by Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter,  Branford Marsalis, (picture not shown) and Joe Lovano  who all have participated in the film. I will be interviewing Branford Marsalis in the coming months and will see if he wants to add his name. The perfectly playable horn was donated by a supporter and is valued from $3000-4000. I hope to raise significantly more. Anything above the value of the horn is tax-deductible.

Horn Sig


Billie Holiday’s birthday was on April 7th 1915. She was 44 years old.  This year marks a hundred years since she has passed. Just like one of her closest friends, Lester Young, she too died to young. To commemorate the relationship between these two iconic musicians and how they revolutionized jazz, we post three videos between march 15th  (Lester Young’s death day) and April 7. (Billie Holiday’s birthday)  If you like what you saw and want to help the film, check out our donation film page.  This film is being made by the generosity of Lester Lovers.  We need your help!


President's Day


From Fort Gordon to Ferguson


From this picture you would think life in the U.S. Army was a cakewalk for Lester Young. Playing his horn, Jo Jones smiling in the back, as Italians say, dolce far niente.   That is exactly what the Army would have wanted you to believe. The truth is quite the opposite.

Sixty-nine years ago today Lester Young was dishonorably discharged from the military. Early in 1945 he was court-martialed and sentenced to a year’s time at Fort Gordon, Georgia for possession of barbiturates and marijuana. A habit Lester was truthful about prior to his induction. Why did the military want a man with an acute drug and alcohol dependency?

We don’t know what degradations Lester suffered throughout his 10 months imprisonment. His own words state it bluntly, “A nightmare, man, one mad nightmare.” Bystanders report white guards who saw a picture of Lester’s wife, a white woman, tormented the prisoner. Writer Michael Steinman says, “he was a tall handsome light-skinned black man with an effeminate manner, high voice, funny way of speaking…I imagine those other inmates held him down, beat him, and raped him…” There is no documentary proof of this happening but many agree that Lester was a changed man when he got out of the Army.

Sixty-nine years after his release from the detention barracks, I wonder if this dishonorable discharge could be expunged from the record? Why did the Army not remand Lester until drug and alcohol issues where dealt with? Did Lester know his rights as a Conscientious objector? Any military lawyers out there think there is a case? One-thing writers agree on, Lester Young was an honorable man. Stan Getz’s wife Monica calls him, “the most sensitive and ethical man I ever met.” His music remains as a testament to truth, Beauty & Truth. Looking at America’s struggle against institutional racism today, it doesn’t seem like a very long ride from Fort Gordon, Alabama to Ferguson, Missouri. Lester’s mad nightmare like the death of Michael Brown stems from the same question Mychal Denzel Smith asks in his Nation article. “What is justice in a nation built on white supremacy and the destruction of black bodies? That’s the question we have yet to answer. It’s the question that shakes us up and makes our insides uncomfortable. It’s the question that causes great unrest.”

From Paris, during his last recorded interview in 1959, Lester wraps up his feelings on America by saying to Le Hot Jazz journalist François Postif. “They want everyone who’s a Negro to be an Uncle Tom, an Uncle Remus or an Uncle Sam, and I can’t make it. But it’s the same way all over. You just fight for your life. You dig? Until death do we part. You got it made.” A few months later Pres was gone. He was 49 years old. for WordPress

Posted by: lesterlives | August 7, 2017

Newport 1957-2017

I went to the Newport Jazz Festival yesterday with my friend Gabe. He was stoked to hear and see “the Roots.”  As I was walking to get in line to for Vernon Reid, I spotted this man wearing a Lester Young T-shirt. I was excited to see someone representing Pres. Ralph with the shirt told me “when people see the shirt they usually say, Nice Coleman Hawkins Shirt.” Close but not the man whose tone Geoff Dyer describes in But Beautiful as, “like a stole wrapped around bare shoulders, weighing nothing.” Last time Pres was in Newport was July 7, 1957, I love this Bob Parent photo of Lester on the fairgrounds. In Paris just a few months later Lester was playing the recording of the concert in his hotel room when François Postif spoke w/ him.

Postif: Did you enjoy your last recording with the Count in, uh, Newport? You know, It’s just published—It’s just released in France today. [pause]. You know, when you blow “Lester Leaps In”—you blow mad.

Young: I’ve got it right here, I’ve been playing it all day. [he had been playing it on his little portable record player while waiting for Postif to arrive.—Ed]. Nice eyes. Oh, I mean I always bust my nuts when I play with them, you know.

Postif: Yea, I know. You were in the twentieth birthday of music or something like that. [The Verve recording was made at the 1957 Newport Festival celebrating Basie’s twentieth anniversary as a recording bandleader. —Ed] From Louis Porter’s Lester Young Reader. Here’s something from that day 60 years ago.

Posted by: lesterlives | October 27, 2014

Letters of Support for President of Beauty

“I have been watching clips of “President of Beauty” with a mounting sense of

anticipation and excitement. Ferrini has thought long and hard about his subject,

Lester Young, and for many, many years.” – Ammiel Alcalay

For the full Letter

“Mr. Ferrini’s awareness of this very simple but profound fact

reveals an impressive understanding of the subject on his part.

His use of Young’s last interview, available on audiotape, as a narrative

device provides the saxophonist’s own commentary on his life and gives

the project a rare authenticity.”

– Douglas Henry Daniels

For the full Letter

“Ferrini is renowned for his “poetic style..brilliant filmwork in such

documentaries as Polis is This: Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place

(on the poet Charles Olson), a documentary on the writer Jack Kerouac,

and others, provide ample proof of the superb artistic merit of Ferrini’s film making.”

-Ed Sanders

For the full Letter

“The poignant and imaginative telling of the life and times of Lester Young

will create a space for a vigorous discussion about the impact of art on society…

Henry has the unique ability to take biographical and ethnographic information

and weave a tapestry of images and multi-layered sound that transcend being

merely an account of someone’s life. His films become a visceral experience of the human spirit.”  

– Susanne Rostock

For the full Letter


Posted by: lesterlives | October 27, 2014

Hank Jones Interview


In this clip from – On Sunday, December 12, 2004, Hank Jones gave a lecture/interview to a  master class produced by John Snyder of Artists House Foundation and David Schroeder of the NYU jazz department.   Many topics were brought up including the late great Lester Young.

Posted by: lesterlives | September 24, 2014

Lester Young Animation!!

Thanks are in order to father and son animation team, Jim and Ben Wickey, from Rockport Ma, for sitting down with us to sketch out some ideas for animating President of Beauty.

Here are some sketches

Lester Animation Composit


Posted by: lesterlives | May 19, 2014

Lester Young History with Phil Schaap

For 44 years Phil Schaap at WKCR radio has been paying tribute to Lester Young. On August 27, 2012 we visited him in the studio during the Lester Young/Charlie Parker Birthday celebration. We shot a lot of great stuff and hope to use for the movie “President of Beauty:the Life & Times of Lester Young. This is a snippet of the shoot.