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Count Basie Live in Berlin & Stockholm 1968 Impro Jazz 2009
Every jazz fan, while listening to an album by one of their favorite legends of the genre, occasionally closes their eyes to imagine what it might have been like actually to be there for the recording itself. Due to the fact that jazz performances and recording sessions were in the past so rarely filmed (and because time travel has yet to be perfected), it's always a treat to see the true greats in action on the TV screen. Impro Jazz has already made many dreams come true with its releases of live performances by pianists Oscar Peterson and Duke Ellington and tenor saxophonists Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster, among others. Now it has added Count Basie to their steadily growing catalogue.
This disc features two sets from November 1968 played over the course of a week in Berlin and Stockholm. Digitally transferred from a live TV broadcast, the video and sound quality may initially appear somewhat crude. However, once the music starts and the idea sets in that what is being seen is Basie and company playing during the 1960s, the viewer quickly forgets any issues with the disc's aesthetic attributes.
The 16-piece orchestra sounds as wonderful as expected on 18 songs; Basie's deft touch on the piano nimbly punctuates its boisterous horn charts. Of all the soloists, perhaps the most notable is tenor man Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, who fills the formidable shoes of former Basie band member Lester Young. The fiery vocalist Marlena Shaw lends some sexiness to the proceedings with a swinging rendition of "Bill Bailey" as well as on a bossa nova-tinged arrangement of "On a Clear Day." Eric Dixon shines on flute during the band's rendition of his original composition "Blues for Ilean."
This will no doubt become an essential purchase for Basie collectors. And along with the rest of the Impro Jazz DVD catalogue, it should spark serious interest among jazz fans in general. No longer is it necessary to imagine, eyes closed, what it might have been like to see a legend at work. Now all that is required is to press play.
Tracks: All Of Me; Hittin' Twelve; Blues For Ilean; Bill Bailey; On A Clear Day; Cherokee; Good Time Blues; A Night In Tunisia; Muddy Water Blues; Whirly-Bird; Lonely Street; The Magic Flea; One O'Clock Jump; Spanky; All Of Me; Hittin' Twelve; Blues for Ilean; Cherokee.
Production Notes: 68 minutes. Recorded Berlin and Stockholm in 1968.