To honor the hundredth anniversary of the birth of the incomparable Count Basie (August 21, 1904), Roulette Records has gone to the vaults and unearthed recordings made by the Basie Orchestra and smaller groups spanning the years 1957-62 when the Count was working for Roulette. All of the material on the two-disc set was previously issued, either on albums or as singles, and there are guest artists on a number of tracks (hence the title Basie & Friends ).
Neal Hefti was Basie's right-hand man at the time, and he's well-represented with four of his classic tunes, "Whirly Bird," "Li'l Darlin'," "Cute" and "Splanky" (but not "The Kid from Red Bank"). The band's regular singer, Joe Williams, is heard from on half a dozen numbers (including one of his signatures, "Ev'ry Day I Have the Blues"), and there are other vocals by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross ("Jumpin'at the Woodside," with Williams on "Goin' to Chicago"), Nat King Cole ("I Want a Little Girl," "The Late Late Show"), Sarah Vaughan ("Until I Met You," dueting with Williams on "Teach Me Tonight" and "If I Were a Bell"), Billy Eckstine ("Lonesome Lover Blues," "Jelly Jelly"), Irene Reid ("Untouchable") and Tony Bennett ("I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face," "Jeepers Creepers").
Trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison is the guest soloist on "One O'Clock Jump," while tenor saxophonists Ben Webster (Basie's "Blue and Sentimental"), Illinois Jacquet ("She's Funny That Way") and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis ("Farouk," "Save Your Love for Me") are heard in small-group settings. Quincy Jones wrote the seductive blues "For Lena and Lennie," among the highlights on disc one.
Breaking it down, there are fifteen vocal tracks, thirteen instrumental. That may not suit everyone, but at least the singers are first-rate. The overall sound is satisfactory too, although it does vary slightly from track to track, while the playing times (51:01, 47:26) are on the lee side of generous. A fairly adequate mélange for those who may have missed these episodes the first time around.
Track Listing: Disc One -- Whirly Bird; Goin' to Chicago; Cute; I Want a Little Girl; Teach Me Tonight; The Late Late Show; Lonesome Lover Blues; Blue and Sentimental; Trav'lin' Light; Farouk; For Lena and Lennie; Untouchable; Everyday (I Have the Blues); I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face (51:01). Disc Two -- Jumpin' at the Woodside; Li'l Darlin'; If I Were a Bell; Splanky; Ain't No Use; Until I Met You (Corner Pocket); She's Funny That Way; The Late Late Show; Jeepers Creepers; Jelly Jelly; Katy Do; Save Your Love for Me; April in Paris; One O'Clock Jump (47:26).
Personnel: Count Basie, piano, with seven orchestras, three smaller groups (complete personnel in booklet) and special guests Tony Bennett, Benny Carter, Nat "King" Cole, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, "Wild Bill" Davis, Billy Eckstine, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Neal Hefti, Illinois Jacquet, Quincy Jones, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Irene Reid, Sarah Vaughan, Ben Webster, Joe Williams.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.