Of all the ideas that floated by Basie in the '60s, this collaboration seems like the least evil of the bunch, and even good. Sammy Nestico composed and arranged all nine tracks. They're melodically inspired and tailored to match the strengths of the band, whose character is retained in quirky tunes like "Hay Burner" or the jumping "Magic Flea." At times the production seems superfluous (Basie's piano, or Marshall Royal's magnificent alto in "Lonely Street" inexplicably drenched in reverb) but compared to some of the other jobs this band did in the '60s (Beatles covers, or recording Disney tunes, to name just two), Straight Ahead is about as close as one can get to the "real" Basie Band without traveling back in time. Nestico recognized the strengths of soloists and much charm stems from their work. Like Eddie Davis on "Fun Time" or Eric Dixon on "Queen Bee." In fact, there's something to look forward to on each track, even if the drums sound like they're in another county. It isn't the first Basie I reach for, but it'll do.