This is not a real Battle of the Bands--an early century concert staple where two popular orchestras would try to outperform one another in front of a live audience--but rather a collection of studio tracks recorded between 1940 and 1947 alternating performances by Ellington and Basie. BATTLE OF THE BANDS nonetheless showcases what are possibly the two finest big bands ever at their respective peaks.
Ellington was in the long run most likely a better composer than Basie, but the songs chosen here focus on the blues, Basie's lifelong specialty. Both bands have exceptional soloists, including Ellington's Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster and Cootie Williams and Basie's Jimmy Rushing, Paul Gonsalves and Harry Edison, all of whom do exceptional work on some of their classic tunes, including Basie's "Swingin' the Blues" and "St. Louis Boogie" and Ellington's "C Jam Blues" and the definitive "Take the A Train." In the end, the battle is a draw.