This 24-track CD, comprised of the contents of two Basie compilation LPs from 1956 and 1957, is a real treat for the bandleader's fans and for big-band swing enthusiasts in general. Basie's work is represented in two distinct periods at OKeh and Columbia Records, from 1939-1946, and 1950-1951. The first was the prime of the classic big-band era, when Basie was at the top of the musical world, striding easily between jazz and popular audiences -- and the cuts from 1939-1946 are represented here in far better sound quality than on any of Columbia's own Basie reissues to date; on that basis alone, this CD is a must-own title. But the 1950-1951 cuts, featuring Basie leading a much smaller group, are also worthwhile musically, and far less familiar to most listeners -- he could still swing, and the playing was still hot, even if relatively few people were buying the records. Up until this release, his early-'50s material was never represented on CD, just as this entire period in Basie's career is almost never written about, skipped over in favor of his reformed "new testament" band. The insert reproduces the original notes for both albums, which were surprisingly extensive for the era, and there is very full session and personnel information on every song.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder