Recent listening, current

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

56. Count Basie / Count Basie at Newport (1957)

This set is a giant. Basie already has a power packed orchestra with Thad Jones, Frank Foster, Frank Wess, Sonny Payne, Freddie Greene, and a handful of others. But he invites superstars from his past bands to join them. Lester Young, Jimmy Rushing, Jo Jones, Joe Williams, and Illinois Jacquet all have a few moments to play with the current band. It's powerful music that is energetic, exciting, inspired, and obviously enjoyed by everyone on the stand and in the crowd. The tracks with Basie's reformed orchestra -- sleek and modern, young but steeped in swing and the blues -- are a nice contrast with older, swing-based musicians like Lester doing "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" followed by a frenetic "Lester Leaps In" and Jimmy Rushing singing the jaw dropping blues "Sent for You Yesterday and Here You Come Today." Rushing's gigantic voice demonstrates what it takes in terms of volume and stage presence to stand out in front of the most motley orchestra in the business. The old chemistry is still there, and this album, like Duke's record from Newport '56, demonstrates that big band wasn't dead yet.

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