CD REVIEWS: Jazz CDs

The Birmingham Post (England), December 13, 2003 | Go to article overview

CD REVIEWS: Jazz CDs


Byline: Reviewed by Peter Bacon

Jazz CDs of the week Count Basie And His Orchestra -America's No 1 Band (Columbia 5128922) While listening to the last CD in this solid four-disc set, a plane passed low overhead. I looked out of the window half expecting to see a Spitfire returning weary from a dogfight over the channel.

That's how evocative is the wartime broadcast transmitted from the Famous Door club in New York 52nd Street and, according to the announcer talking over the barely contained enthusiasm of Lester Young and the orchestra's One O'Clock Jump, 'broadcast to Great Britain through the facilities of the British Broadcasting Corporation'.

This disc of radio broadcasts only previously available on obscure fan-club issues is the large and succulent cherry on a rich, sherry soaked trifle comprising the golden years of the Count Basie band captured on Columbia records. It concentrates on Basie's pre-50s 'old testament', but here, in 89 tracks. we get the band which features Lester Young, Buck Clayton, Harry 'Sweets' Edison, and the dream rhythm team with Walter Page on bass, Freddie Green on drums and Jo Jones on drums, as well as Basie himself, saying so much with so few notes on piano.

Vocal high points include the incomparable Jimmy Rushing, the unassuming Helen Humes, and a clutch of revealing 1939 performances from Billie Holiday.

Although it covers the years 1936 to 1951 (with a few Octet tracks from 1957), the veteran producer Orin Keepnews decided not to stick to a chronological sequence. Instead CD 1 contains the small group performances, starting with the ones Basie, Young, trumpeter Carl Smith and the rhythm team made under the name Jones-Smith Inc, because of contractual obligations elsewhere. The sound and style of this small group would form the template for all combos in the post-big band years.

After a few tracks from the 1957 Octet, with Clark Terry, Buddy DeFranco and Wardell Gray, the stage expands on disc two to accommodate the full orchestra in scintillating form.

And that's the way it stays for CD 3. This is truly joyous music. As with Louis Armstrong before him and the Beach Boys afterwards, it's well nigh impossible to hear Count Basie and the orchestra without a smile breaking out. They should be available on prescription.

As well as introducing those excellent radio broadcasts, this set also, by virtue of the latest remastering technology, brings the previously released material bursting forth in fresh and sparkling sound. It's as if an old master, dulled by years of overpainting and the discoloration of age, had been cleaned to reveal long hidden secrets and its original lustre.

A chunky booklet within the slipcase is packed with authoritative notes and pictures from the time, which bring the whole era even further to life.

A Christmas gift that will go on giving. HHHHH To order this CD for pounds 24.99, including post & packing, call our Music Line on 01634 832 789Jazz reissue CD of the week Pete Christlieb/Warne Marsh -Apogee (Warner 8122 73723-2) It may not rank in anyone else's five-star category, but it damn well does in mine.

This disc brought me such joy back in 1978 when it first appeared on vinyl that I've been searching for it on CD ever since I finally jettisoned the turntable five or so years ago. Andnow, hurrah, it's one of the latest batch in Warners' Jazz Masters reissue series.

On the surface it's a two-tenor contest in the old tradition. But the pairing of the tenor players is unusual, Christlieb was a boisterous young buck with a background in big bands and as a session player, Marsh a bit of a cult figure, best known for his associations with altoist Lee Konitz and their guru of cool, pianist Lennie Tristano.

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