Count Basie

At the Royal Roost 1948

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Just at face value, this is an important recording. As a result of the Musicians' Union recording ban, Count Basie made no official recordings during the entire year of 1948, so the 33 minutes of live radio performances featured here, done at the Royal Roost on September 11, 14, and 25, 1948, go a little way toward redressing this problem; then there's the fact that Dinah Washington and Anita O'Day, neither of whom ever recorded with the Basie band, are featured on two numbers each out of the 11 here. The presence of an announcer between songs is a bit obtrusive, but otherwise there is little to complain about in this mix of jazz, swing, and R&B. The sound quality is decent, even above-average for 50-year-old transcription discs, with no excessive surface noise, although one suspects that it might clean up even better in future years as digital technology improves even further -- that would help on quieter moments, such as the gentle introduction to Basie's own "Paradise Squat." There's a pretty close sound to the band, which is really tight -- the members include Clark Terry, Emmett Berry, and Harry "Sweets" Edison on trumpet; Paul Gonsalves (who gets an extended featured spot on "Robbins Nest") and Wardell Gray on tenor sax (check out his work on "The King"); Dickie Wells on trombone; Charles Q. Price and Earl Warren on alto sax; Eugene Wright on bass; and Freddie Green on guitar. Jimmy Rushing sings a hot, almost rocking version of "Blue Skies," and Anita O'Day beautifully handles "Malaguena" and "How High the Moon," the latter opening in a moody, slow, haunting fashion before she starts some rapid-fire scatting.

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