THE BEST OF COUNT BASIE BIG BAND is a collection of cuts from sessions the group recorded in the late '70s and early '80s. Even given the advanced age of the good Count (the latest date here was made only two years before his death) and many of his players (Curtis Fuller, Sonny Cohn, and Freddie Green among them), the performances are as sprightly and swinging as ever. The finger-popping jive of tunes like "The Heat's On" and "C.B. Express" perfectly counterbalance languid orchestral arrangements of "Katy" and "Swee' Pea."
As always, the caliber of musicianship is high, with solo spots rotating among the veteran members of his 16-20 piece ensembles (personnel vary from recording to recording). Not least are the contributions of Basie himself, whose light, highly rhythmic approach to piano sparkles throughout (check out his licks on "Mr. Softie"). In all, this is an impressive final chapter in the life's work of one of jazz's most important figures.