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Count Basie Orchestra: Atomic Swing

Mike Neely By

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Count Basie usually brings to mind a legendary rhythm section, Lester Young, Buck Clayton, and such singers as Jimmy Rushing and Billie Holiday. But after World War II, long after his most famous orchestra dissolved, Basie put together another that is among the finest big bands in the history of jazz. Count Basie: Atomic Swing provides all the evidence the most doubtful listener could demand. This is classic jazz.

Capitol Records and Roulette Jazz provide an excellent selection of Basie recordings from 1957 to 1962. The 20-bit Super Bit Mapping sound quality allows the listener to hear in detail what is rarely heard on older, big band recordings. In short, the sections are comprised of individual horn/reed players each with distinct personalities who combine synergistically. The distinct voices can be parsed or you can step back for the larger picture. The same level of sound detail comes forward in the rhythm section: this is a dynamic almost three dimensional recording.

The first track, "The Daly Jump" opens with a concise, quirky Basie solo, followed by the entrance of the rhythm section that rolls in like an ocean wave. There’s a quick exchange between the reeds and horns, and then Thad Jones offers a stately trumpet solo followed by a heated Frank Foster solo on tenor, all the while the rhythm section and reed/horns are cooking. In short, this track unfolds like great big band jazz, which it is.

The following track, Earl Warren’s "9:20 Special" is even better with exchanges between the sections that are a lesson in what arranging is all about. Solos by Basie, Frank Wess, Frank Foster, and Joe Newman are interspersed beautifully with the section exchanges. If you’re not familiar with the rhythm section of Count Basie on piano, Freddie Green on guitar, Eddie Jones on bass, and Sonny Payne on drums you are in for a treat.

However good the musicians are Atomic Swing is ultimately an arrangers’ showcase. The streamlined interactions between the soloists and the sections highlights that big band jazz is an ensemble medium. The soloists are acutely attuned to the sections and vice versa and everyone is attuned to the purposes of the arrangers and composers. The musical intelligence of this orchestra is almost palpable. The impressive lineup of arrangers includes Ernie Wilkens, Eddie Durham, Count Basie, Buster Harding, Buck Clayton, Quincy Jones, Frank Foster, Neal Hefti, and Jimmy Mundy. It should be mentioned that this CD coheres. It doesn’t have the random feel of so many compilations. The variety of styles moves together like an inspired live set. Highly recommended.


Track Listing: The Daly Jump; 9:20 Special; Fair and Warmer; I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good; Out the Window; Taps Miller; Moten Swing; The Midnite Sun Never Sets; Teddy the Toad; Rock-A-Bye Basie; The Late, Late Show; Back to the Apple; Li'l Darlin.' (48:52)

Personnel: Joe Newman,Thad Jones, Wendell Culley,trumpets; Benny Powell, Henry Coker, trombonists; Marshall Royal, Frank Wess, Frank Foster, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, saxophonists; Count Basie, piano; Freddie Green, guitar; Eddie Jones, bass; and Sonny Payne, drums.

Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Capitol Records


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