The mid-'60s are regarded as a creative low point for the Count Basie Orchestra, but this live recording proves that the Basie band was as stylish and swingin' as ever in 1966, though fewer folks were paying attention. Recorded during a week-long stint at the Las Vegas Sands Hotel, this release compiles material from the band's opening sets prior to their performances with the main attraction that week, Frank Sinatra.
Live at the Sands serves as an excellent Basie sampler, in part because it offers many of the band's best-known tunes, including "Splanky," "Corner Pocket," "Jumpin' at the Woodside," and a spare version of "One O'Clock Jump," Basie's signature song. There are also a few graceful ballads, making this a well-rounded collection.
By itself, Quincy Jones' arrangement of "I Can't Stop Loving You" makes this CD worth the price. It's simply the best instrumental version of Don Gibson's country classic I have heard, and it may be the best version period. When those killer horns top off the chorus with a breathy flourish, it's one of those sublime touches that separates great music from the ordinary.
The performances at the Sands are also notable because they marked the return of three of Basie's best-known sidemen: trombonist Al Grey, tenor saxman Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, and drummer Sonny Payne. All three are featured prominently here, and they really deliver the goods. Grey's muted trombone leads the way on a mellow version of "Makin' Whoopee!," while Davis has several moments in the spotlight, including an extended solo on "Jumpin' at the Woodside," the CD's smoker.
Duke Ellington once credited Basie for having the best rhythm section in jazz. A great swing drummer has always sat at the heart of his orchestra, be he Philly Jo Jones, Rufus "Speedy" Jones, or Butch Miles, the band's current skins man. The flamboyant Sonny Payne rates with Basie's best, and on Live at the Sands he helps drive this music with his relentless swaying tempos.
William "Count" Basie had an unparalleled talent for stripping tunes down to their swinging essence. To this day, no big band swings with more riffing intensity and rhythmic precision. Young people who are into the Squirrel Nut Zippers, the Cherry Poppin' Daddies, or other pseudo jazz outfits simply must check out the swingingest music machine the world has yet seen, the Count Basie Orchestra. Live at the Sands serves an excellent introduction.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.