Amazon.com Widgets

Count Basie Orchestra: Swinging, Singing, Playing

By Published: | 13,012 views
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Count Basie Orchestra

Swinging, Singing, Playing

Mack Avenue

2009

Although over a quarter-century has elapsed since the passing of Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
in 1984, the bandleader and pianist's legacy has proved one of the most durable from the big band era, and the Basie band's Swinging, Singing, Playing maintains the Basie tradition and carries it triumphantly into the new millennium. Dennis Wilson (not to be confused with his late Beach Boys namesake), who served in the Basie trombone section from 1977-87, first under Basie himself, then under Thad Jones
Thad Jones
Thad Jones
1923 - 1986
trumpet
and Frank Foster
Frank Foster
Frank Foster
1928 - 2011
saxophone
, returns to conduct the current ensemble in eleven of his own Basie-styled charts, including four original compositions. (Wilson is now Professor of Music at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor).

"Giant Blues Flag Waver" is Wilson's compositional opening salvo, in which the traditional Basie groove joins forces with John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
's "Giant Steps," with tenor saxophonist Doug Lawrence, drummer Marion Felder and guest pianist Geri Allen
Geri Allen
Geri Allen
b.1957
piano
in the solo spotlight. Another guest, bassist Rufus Reid
Rufus Reid
Rufus Reid
b.1944
bass, acoustic
, captures solo honors on "Naiomi's Blues," which Wilson named for his daughter. Wilson says that he composed "Dark Morning" on the very day of Basie's death. It has remained unrecorded until here, where it receives a midnight-blue velvet treatment reminiscent of Neal Hefti
Neal Hefti
Neal Hefti
1922 - 2008
trumpet
's "Li'l Darlin'" and Henry Mancini
Henry Mancini
Henry Mancini
b.1924
piano
's "Dreamsville." It's highlighted by Michael Williams' bucket-muted trumpet saluting Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
1938 - 2008
trumpet
.

The 87-year-old scat master Jon Hendricks
Jon Hendricks
Jon Hendricks
b.1921
vocalist
teams with the thirtysomething British show business prodigy Jamie Cullum
Jamie Cullum
Jamie Cullum

vocalist
at the piano on the Basie-meets-James Brown
James Brown
James Brown
1933 - 2006
vocalist
(plus a hint of Joe Zawinul
Joe Zawinul
Joe Zawinul
1932 - 2007
keyboard
's "Birdland") "Blues On Mack Avenue," which also features Wilson in a plunger-muted solo saluting the late Basie trombonist Al Grey
Al Grey
Al Grey
1925 - 2000
trombone
, in addition to an open statement by Wilson's Basie predecessor Curtis Fuller
Curtis Fuller
Curtis Fuller
b.1934
trombone
. (The album closes with the iconic Basie piano tag, on which Cullum maintains the final chord in a nod to The Beatles' "A Day In the Life," accompanied by Hendricks' laughter).

Flutist Frank Wess
Frank Wess
Frank Wess
1922 - 2013
sax, tenor
, a Basie veteran of nearly three decades (he introduced the flute into the Basie repertoire while doubling on alto and tenor), rejoins the band for Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
b.1933
producer
's "Jessica's Day," nearly 50 years after he first recorded the tune with Basie. Wilson has expanded Wess' flute lead on the original recording, Basie One More Time (Roulette, 1960), into a fully-realized solo feature, and the octogenarian Wess succeeds brilliantly.

In 1985, the Basie ensemble under Thad Jones appeared on The Manhattan Transfer's Grammy-winning Vocalese album (Atlantic, since reissued on Rhino), and one of the vocal quartet's founding members, Janis Siegel, reunites with the band in tributes to Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
1917 - 1996
vocalist
and Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
1924 - 1990
vocalist
, both of whom enjoyed long associations with Basie. Andre Previn
Andre Previn
Andre Previn
b.1929
piano
's late-1950s paean to hipness "Like Young" is firmly in "First Lady Of Song" vein, while "Close Your Eyes" and "I Have Waited So Long," composed by Vaughan herself and featuring just the sax section led by the superb Marshall McDonald, echo "The Divine One," as Vaughan was nicknamed. Thad's older brother, the nonagenarian Hank Jones
Hank Jones
Hank Jones
1918 - 2010
piano
, provides outstanding piano accompaniment to all of Siegel's vocals.

The album's sole liability is vocalist Nnenna Freelon
Nnenna Freelon
Nnenna Freelon
b.1954
vocalist
on "Too Close for Comfort" and Jerome Kern
Jerome Kern
Jerome Kern
1895 - 1945
arranger
's "Yesterdays." She sings flat on the latter and her attempts at scat do not match those of either Siegel or Hendricks elsewhere on the CD ("Yesterdays" is redeemed by the electrifying drumming of Basie veteran Butch Miles
Butch Miles
Butch Miles
b.1944
drums
. Cullum's vocal contribution is the Oscar Levant/Stanley Adams standard "Blame It On My Youth," which Wilson indicates as a salute to Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett
b.1926
vocalist
, whose A Swingin' Christmas (Sony/Columbia, 2008), featuring the Basie band, was recorded just a few months earlier. On all other "Counts," however, Swinging, Singing, and Playing is an absolute winner.

Tracks: Too Close for Comfort; Giant Blues Flag Waver; Like Young; Jessica's Day; Blame It On My Youth; Close Your Eyes; Naiomi's Blues; Yesterdays; I Have Waited So Long; Dark Morning; Blues On Mack Avenue.

Personnel: Dennis Wilson: conductor, composer, arranger, trombone; Bill Hughes: leader, bass trombone; Marshall McDonald: lead alto sax; Grant Langford: alto sax; Doug Lawrence: tenor sax; Doug Miller: tenor sax; John Williams: baritone sax; William "Scotty" Barnhart: trumpet; Michael Williams: trumpet; Kris Johnson: trumpet; James Zollar: trumpet; Dave Keim: lead trombone; Clarence Bank: trombone; Alvin Walker: trombone; Barry Cooper: bass trombone; Tony Suggs: piano; Will Matthews: guitar; James Leary: bass; Marion Felder: drums. Guest Artists: Nnenna Freelon: vocals; Janis Siegel: vocals; Jon Hendricks: vocals; Jamie Cullum: vocals, piano; Geri Allen: piano; Hank Jones: piano; Rufus Reid: bass; Butch Miles: drums; Frank Wess: flute; Curtis Fuller: trombone.

Record Label: Mack Avenue Records


comments powered by Disqus
Support All About Jazz Through Amazon

Weekly Giveaways

Carmen Lundy

Carmen Lundy

About | Enter

Wadada Leo Smith

Wadada Leo Smith

About | Enter

Mort Weiss

Mort Weiss

About | Enter

Rotem Sivan

Rotem Sivan

About | Enter

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW

Enter it twice.
To the weekly jazz events calendar

Enter the numbers in the graphic
Enter the code in this picture

Log in

One moment, you will be redirected shortly.