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Count Basie: Good Time Blues

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Is there any sound more timeless in all of jazz than that of the Basie Orchestra? The title of this new Pablo release might be a perfect description of the essence of the Basie band—except one might add the word swingin'. This is the band that perfected a sound and a feeling that define what's best about jazz, and especially big band jazz: brilliant ensemble sound; players who understand the notion of playing together, but also of making smart and economic solo statements; and a leader who with no seeming effort directs his band to make music that combines excitement and subtlety, entertainment, and art.

Many would say that by 1970 the band was past its heyday, but this previously unissued concert from Budapest gives the lie to that assertion. Basie, his longtime guitarist Freddie Green, and drummer Harold Jones shore up the rhythm, providing the foundation for doing what they do best. They waste no time in establishing the Basie groove—driving yet relaxed, with the sax section stating the simple blues lines, complemented by the rest of the knockout band. It's not quite three minutes, but it creates enough good feeling to last for the whole record.

The band wails through familiar material—like Neal Hefti's "Cute and, of course, the Basie themes "Jumpin' at the Woodside and "One O'Clock Jump —but nothing sounds tired or stale, despite the fact that we know the band was touring and had played these tunes and these arrangements many times. On Dizzy's "Night in Tunisia, the mellow sound of those Basie saxophones gently complements the more fiery statement by Sweets Edison and the band.

And what a bevy of fine soloists—seemingly everyone in the band can take on this role. The manic version of "Summertime, for example, includes a short, blistering tenor solo by old favorite Eddie "Lockjaw Davis, plus some drum fireworks from Jones. And dig Lockjaw's feature on "Light and Lovely —again the blues, but this time with a punch. Nothing is overlong or too showy, and everything swings. It's worth re-investigating the simple elegance grace of Basie's piano. As a soloist and comper, he is peerless in how much he says with apparently so few notes.

The band was always a showcase for fine vocalists, and in 1970 it presented Mary Stallings. Her singing is just right for the Basie band—it's simple and direct but also impassioned, reminiscent of Dinah Washington. And of late, the talented Ms. Stallings has returned to singing after a "retirement.

This is a welcome release of a sterling concert—yet another reminder of the eternal presence of the Count Basie sound.

Track Listing: Hittin

Personnel: Count Basie, piano; Gene Coe, Sonny Cohn, Harry

Title: Good Time Blues | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Fantasy Jazz

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