"Labor of love" is the inevitable phrase to describe this album on which composer/conductor/arrangers Quincy Jones and Sammy Nestico, both of whom wrote for Count Basie and His Orchestra, assemble a top-flight big band to perform some of their vintage charts. Despite the use of the bandleader's name in the title and the pictures of him with the two principals on the front and back of the album, the music is more "beyond" than "Basie." It is true that both Jones and Nestico are steeped in the Basie band's light, rhythmic approach to playing and their music is imbued with that style. But both are better understood as graduates of the Basie school than true adherents, people who have spent the better parts of their careers applying their knowledge of swing to other endeavors, notably film scores. As a result, you will hear music that is more "jazzy" than "jazz." Nevertheless, it is exhilarating to listen to a big band recorded with modern fidelity; the rhythm section especially stands out, and, of course, rhythm was everything in Basie's sound. The wealth of talent meant the album had to be recorded quickly, in a couple of days, but it also seems to have inspired the players to do their best. Basie & Beyond is almost a fantasy project, a major-label release of a high-quality jazz date with practically no chance of significant sales. In that sense, the other inevitable term to describe it is "throwback," but you can't help being glad Jones has the clout to indulge in this kind of thing now and then.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann