Author: Norwood, Doug
Date published: December 1, 2010
Count Basie and his Orchestra
Dance Along With Basie
Poll Winners Records PWR 27206
Thad Jones (p, arr#), John Anderson, Snooky Young, Joe Newman (tp) Henry Coker, Al Grey, Benny Powell (tb) Marshall Royal (as) Frank Wess (as, fl) Billy Mitchell (ts) Frank Foster (ts,arr§) Charlie Fowlkes (bs, fl) Count Basie (p) Freddie Greene (g) Eddie Jones (b) Sonny Payne (d) NYC, Between December 16 and December 31 1959 : It Had to Be You# / Makin' Whoopee# / Can't We be Friends?# / Misty§ / It's a Pity to Say Goodnight# / How Am I to Know?# / Easy Living# / Fools Rush In# / Secret Love§ / Give Me the Simple Life# / Back to the Apple§
Same personnel except Wendell Cully (tp) instead of John Anderson, Joe Williams (vcl)* Arr Jimmy Mundy#, Benny Carter§, Ernie Wilkins** /Nat Pierce##, NYC Between April 28 and December 10 1958 : Moten Swing** / Ol' Man River# / Fair and Warmer** / M-Squad Theme§ / Tell Me Your Troubles*## / Imagination
Same except Bill Hughes (tb) instead of Grey & Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis instead of Mitchell, NYC, Arr Jimmy Mundy#, September 19 1957 : Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You* / Love Me Baby / Confessin' the Blues* / J and B# TT: 75:13
Count Basie and His Orchestra
One More Time - Music from the Pen of Quincy Jones
American Jazz Classics A 99014
Basie One More Time
Thad Jones, Wendell Culley, Snooky Young, Joe Newman (tp) Henry Coker, Al Grey, Benny Powell (tb) Marshall Royal (as) Frank Wess (as, ts, fl) (ts) Frank Foster (ts) Charlie Fowlkes (bs) Count Basie (p) Freddie Greene (g) Eddie Jones (b) Sonny Payne (d) Arr Quincy Jones, NYC, December 18-20 1959 : For Lena and Lennie / Rat Race / Quince / Meet B. B. / The Big Walk / A Square at the Roundtable / I Needs to be Bee'd With / Jessica's Day / The Midnignt Sun Will Never Set / Muttnik
String Along With Basie
Ben Webster (ts) Henry Coker, Al Grey, Benny Powell (tb) Count Basie (p) Freddie Greene (g) George Duvivier (b) Jimmy Crawford (d) plus string orchestra, Arr Quincy Jones, NYC July 20 1959 : Blue and Sentimental / Blues Bittersweet / These Foolish Things
Illinois Jacquet (ts) Frank Wess, Herbie Mann (1) Andy Fitzgerald (fl, b-cl) Count Basie (p) Freddie Greene (g) George Duvivier (b) Jimmy Crawford (d) plus string orchestra, Arr George Williams, NYC May 10-11 1960 : Summertime / Song of the Islands / Stringing the Blues / The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else / Poor Butterfly / She's Funny That Way / Sweet Lorraine
During the early to middle fifties, partially as a result of the efforts of such enthusiasts as John Hammond with his productions for Vanguard and later for Columbia and Norman Granz with his Clef and Norgran labels, there was a revival of interest in the musicians from the 'middle period' of jazz who had been sadly neglected in the years immediately preceding, the silliness of the bebop vs mouldy fygge disputes having dominated much of the attention of both the jazz media and the jazz audience during that period. It's just possible that the reborn Basie band was a beneficiary of this refreshing attitude.
The postwar period was a time of trouble and travail for the big bands which had dominated both jazz and popular music for the past decade and in was in this climate that Basie, being only one of many, found it difficult to maintain a working band. Therefore, in late 1949, he disbanded and for several years thereafter worked primarily with small groups, although occasionally putting together an ad-hoc larger group for recording dates or for special appearances.
In 1952, partly as a result of the urging of Norman Granz and Billy Eckstine, he again organized a permanant band, recording regularly for Granz and frequently appearing at Birdland. For a year or two, there were some comings and goings but by 1954, the band had settled in with personnel that, with only a few changes, would persist for several years. The band recorded for the Granz labels from the time of its reorganization in 1952 until it signed with Roulette in 1957.
At Rouilette, where he remained until 1962, his recordings were produced by Teddy Reig, like Granz, knowledgeable and sympathetic as to what the band was doing, and the band's recorded output during the ten year period following its rebirth was of a consistently high quality and most likely represents the most essential output of what came to be known as the 'New Testament' band.
Basie's bands of the thirties and forties were rather informal groups with much of their output being head arrangements. These bands were loose (but never sloppy) and largely defined by the soloists. While never lacking in capable soloists, the reorganized band was a tighter highly rehearsed organization with much of the emphasis on arrangements by such outstanding writers as Ernie Wilkins, Neal Hefti, Thad Jones, Frank Foster, Quincy Jones and later, Sammy Nestico. In my view, this was not a radical turnaround for Basie - I believe you can see a trend in that direction in his recordings from the last half of the forties.
Both the CDs reviewed here are from the Roulette years. The first one, Dance Along With Basie, was arranged by Thad Jones and Frank Foster and is proof, in case anyone needs proof, that good dance music can also be superb listening music. Arrangements are interesting and imaginative and there are good solos throughout. Back to the Apple, recorded at the same session, did not fit the concept of the original LP and so was not included on it. This CD was completed by ten tracks which originally appeared as singles or on collations.
The LP, Basie One More Time, consisted of ten arrangements by Quincy Jones. Several of these pieces will be familiar from performances by other groups including Quincy's own band and by Dizzy Gillespie while others seem to be tailored specifically for Basie. In either case, the pairing of one of the finest arrangers of the period with one of the finest bands is an inspired one and the results are predictably gratifying.
String Along With Basie, which forms the second half of the Basie One More Time CD is something of an oddity. I can recall only one other occasion when Basie recorded with strings, two rather lackluster sides backing vocalist Lynne Sherman, where a string section was added to the Basie band. These are of considerably more interest. Arrangements, again by Quincy or by the prolific journeyman arranger George Williams, are interesting and there is nothing which might be regarded as schmaltzy about the sessions.
Selection of material is praiseworthy consisting of standards along with two originals. Along with Basie himself, there are outstanding solos by tenor stars Ben Webster and Illinois Jacquet as well as by Andy Fitzgerald on bass flute. Timings on both these CDs are generous and are well worth the price.
* Doug Norwood