Recorded three years after their first full album together, this second encounter between Count Basie and Oscar Peterson on twin pianos (this time with a quartet) is as strong as the original, alternating standards with blues. Both Peterson and Basie have one number apiece on electric piano, making this album historic as well as quite musical.
The Count Basie Orchestra's initial studio album for Pablo mostly features pleasant but lightweight arrangements by Sammy Nestico. The music is quite recognizable as Basie's but the results are somewhat forgettable and predictable.
This release gives one a definitive look at the Count Basie Orchestra during its final years. Trumpeter Pete Minger, trombonist Booty Wood and Eric Dixon on tenor and flute are the main soloists, but it is the classic Basie ensemble sound (which never seems to get dated or lose its charm and power) that carries the day. Whether it is "Wind Machine," "Splanky" or "In a Mellow Tone, " this is a highly enjoyable set.
The MPS label scored a coup when they were able to set up a recording date with the Basie orchestra. It took place on October 20th, 1969 at Universal Studios in Chicago. As agreed upon, the band brought along standards from the Basie book, and the Count fulfilled MPS head Hans Georg Brunner-Schwers wish that Basie play longer piano passages than usual; normally Basie limited himself to a short riff here and there. The way Basie and his orchestra played reminded me of a top long distance runner, producer Sonny Lester commented in the liner notes to the album. He went on to say that the bands playing was, disciplined, clean, with such a feel for timing and teamwork that you had the feeling that every band member was guided by the same brain…
Although Count Basie gets cobilling with Ella Fitzgerald on this concert recording from the 1979 Montreux Jazz Festival, the veteran pianist is only on the final of the 11 songs. His big band, along with pianist Paul Smith, backs the veteran singer for a set of standards and, although Fitzgerald was beginning to fade, she could still hint strongly at her former greatness. Highlights include "Sweet Georgia Brown," "'Round Midnight" and "Honeysuckle Rose."
Surprisingly enough this 1963 LP was the first time (other than a couple songs) that Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie recorded together. (The match-up was so logical that it would be repeated many times over the next 20 years.) Fitzgerald sounds fine and, even if Quincy Jones' arrangements did not give the Basie musicians as much space for solos - although two songs do feature a bit of trumpeter Joe Newman, trombonist Urbie Green and Frank Foster on tenor - this is an enjoyable effort. High points include "Honeysuckle Rose," "Them There Eyes" and "Shiny Stockings."
It was originally issued as "Ella & Basie!" and reissued later with slightly different cover art as "On the Sunny Side of the Street".
Nine tracks of the Basie band in its prime playing music composed and arranged by Quincy Jones - that should be enough to tell you this is a superb album. All nine of the originals are virtually forgotten today but are very well-played by this veteran band. Although Frank Foster was still in the band, Eric Dixon (on tenor and flute) was starting to assert himself as a major solo voice while trumpeter Snooky Young has a few strong spots.
In 1964, Count Basie handed the reins of his band over to composer and arranger Billy Byers, purportedly to modernize his sound to the times. More accurately, Byers energized the band with his bright charts loaded with counterpointed exchanges and interplay, plus a depth and density the Basie band had long since relinquished to other similarly sized groups. With stellar personnel - including Eric Dixon, Frank Foster, Frank Wess, Marshall Royal, Al Aarons, and Don Rader - Byers and Basie stoked the coals of the band with some red hot bop and intricate charts atypical to the laid-back approach that always served the band and its fans well…
When Count Basie returned to Verve Records in 1962, Neal Hefti was contracted to write the tunes and arrangements, a revival of their partnership from the 1958 Roulette LP Basie Plays Hefti. While none of these selections is as famous as his songs like "Cute," "Little Pony," "Splanky," "Li'l Darlin'," and "Repetition," the substantial originality of this music is hard to deny, not to mention that the expert musicians playing his music bring these tracks fully to life in a livelier fashion than most laid-back Basie studio sessions. In fact, it has the feeling of a concert date that trumps the more clean, controlled environment of a session that was recorded on a three-track reel-to-reel…