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A Bounty of Basie

Dr. Judith Schlesinger By

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Since the immortal William (Count) Basie was born on August 21, 1904, 2004 is his centennial year. Blue Note has released two 2-CD collections of songs, including some of the best and most beloved of his 50-year career, and all warmly remastered in 24 bit. Not a prolific composer like the Duke (though Basie did write his band's theme, "One O'Clock Jump") the Count's genius was in assembling, nurturing, and inspiring a matchless band. His sly, minimalistic piano is immediately recognizable, as essential as the small tugboat guiding a sleek and powerful ocean liner. Another defining characteristic is the consistent swing of a Basie group, whatever its size and whomever its ingredients—and the word "legend" is not too strong for many of them.


100th Year Birthday Bash
Roulette/Blue Note Records
2004

This release focuses on the Roulette label sessions from 1957-1961. There are both live and studio cuts, singles and LPs, tracks with strings, and small groups as well as the whole assemblage. This double CD also features some of the premiere vocalists who fronted the band: Tony Bennett, Nat Cole, Billy Eckstine, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Sarah Vaughn, and Joe Williams. Tony is in relatively tame crooner-mode on these cuts while Nat really swings, and Sarah and Joe are better solo than together on "Teach Me Tonight," which sounds more like a cutting contest than a romantic invitation. But that's just me.



There are brief solos by Illinois Jacquet, Ben Webster, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Harry "Sweets" Edison, and arrangements by other special guests from Mt. Olympus: Benny Carter, Neal Hefti, Frank Foster, "Wild Bill" Davis, and Quincy and Thad Jones. Davis's famous fake-coda arrangement of "April in Paris" is here, although not the hit version with the "one more once" shout. Still, it's a classic, as is almost everything Basie did: classy and classic.




The Count Basie Story
Roulette/Blue Note Records
1960/2004

In the years following World War II, the market for dance bands was sputtering. After cutting back to a septet in 1950, the Basie band had major hits in "April in Paris" and "Every Day (I Have the Blues)" and re-emerged as a concert attraction. The Count Basie Story , another double CD set, was recorded in the same time span as Count Basie and Friends as its historical companion: a revisiting of the tunes people danced to in the 30s and 40s. (All but two of the 26 tracks came from Roulette's original title, "The Count Basie Story.") Since so many of those arrangements were memorized or not written down, tenor man Frank Foster was assigned to listen to and transcribe the old records.

As the liners point out, some listeners will miss the original players—"Lester Leaps In" without Lester Young?—but I don't think the dancers will care. Besides, even if the soloists aren't identified, the replacements are hardly slouches, and the Count is still is session. So roll back the rug and dust off those skills, or just play this music to swing yourself through whatever you're doing. It's joyful, timeless stuff.



Tracks Listing:

100th Year Birthday Bash

Disc One: Whirly-Birds, Goin' to Chicago, Cute, I Want a Little Girl, Teach Me Tonight, The Late Late Show (instrumental), Lonesome Lover Blues, Blue and Sentimental, Trav'lin Light, Farouk, For Lena and Lennie, Untouchable, Every Day (I Have the Blues), I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face

Disc Two: Jumpin' at the Woodside, Li'l Darlin,' Splanky, Ain't No Use, Until I Met You (Corner Pocket), She's Funny That Way, The Late Late Show (vocal), Jeepers Creepers, Jelly Jelly, Katy Do, Save Your Love for Me, April in Paris, One O'Clock Jump

The Count Basie Story

Disc One: Broadway, Down for Double, Lester Leaps In, Topsy, Jumpin' at the Woodside, Tapes Miller, Shorty George, Doggin' Around, Avenue C, Jive at Five, Rock-a-bye Basie, Moten Swing

Disc Two: Swingin' the Blues, Sent for You Yesterday, Tickle Toe, Blue and Sentimental, Time Out, 9:20 Special, Red Bank Boogie, Every Tub, Dickie's Dream, Texas Shuffle, Out the Window, Boogie Woogie (I May Be Wrong), Good Morning Blues, Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You

Personnel:

[similar on both releases] Sonny Cohn, Thad Jones, Snooky Young, Joe Newman (trumpets), Henry Coker, Al Grey, Benny Powell (trombones), Marshall Royal (alto sax, clarinet), Frank Wess (alto, tenor sax), Billy Mitchell (tenor sax, clarinet), Frank Foster (tenor sax), Charles Fowlkes (baritone sax), Count Basie (piano), Freddie Green (guitar), Eddie Jones (bass), Sonny Payne (drums)

Also featuring Joe Williams (vocal), John Anderson, Wendell Culley, Jimmy Nottingham (trumpet), Bill Huges (trombone), Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Seldon Powell (tenor sax), Gus Johnson (drums)

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