Count Basie

Basie at Birdland

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In early 1961, the 16-member Count Basie band lost a few key soloists (Billy Mitchell, Joe Newman, and Al Grey), but that did not slow them down. By June of that year they quite adequately reloaded. In fact, it could be said they were re-energized, and this live set at Birdland, the self-proclaimed "Jazz Corner of the World," provides proof of how great they continued to be. Though the group was known for emphasizing sweet, slow, and soulful Kansas City-style numbers like "Blues Backstage," "Good Time Blues," and "I Needs to Be Bee'd With," there's a lot of hard-swinging big-band bop to enjoy. The first two pieces, "Little Pony" and the now correctly titled "Basie," get the ball rolling fervently, while "Blee Blop Blues" and the shortie "A Little Tempo Please" are en fuego. Vocalist Jon Hendricks scats up a storm on an over the top "Whirly-Bird" from the original issue, and there's an instrumental version later on. Classic numbers "Corner Pocket," the lengthy "Segue in C" (played twice), and "One O'Clock Jump" (appearing three times, including two set-closers clocking in at about a minute apiece) are peppered in. Often the crowd noise (perhaps the chatty band egging them on?) distracts greatly from Basie's lengthy piano discourses that set the pace for the band to chime in. At the end you get to hear a muffled band outro delivered by Pee Wee Marquette. This has always been one of the more enjoyable live recordings from Basie and company, and still can be easily recommended for novices as well as aficionados of his unflappable ability to swing a band like nobody else.

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