Count Basie

Cafe Society Uptown 1941

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This double CD contains numerous radio transcriptions of Count Basie and his band from their prime years. In that sense, it isn't particularly special. On the other hand, the period captured here -- from September 19 through October 25, 1941 -- was a special one for the band. It was during this period that they performed a seven-week engagement at New York's Cafe Society (Uptown), one of the most prestigious performing venues in the city. The worsening war situation in Europe and Asia aside, this was an idyllic time for the band, and it certainly seems it in these performances. Though the band wasn't at top strength -- Lester Young having departed nearly a year earlier -- the lineup was still one to be reckoned with, featuring Buck Clayton, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Earle Warren, Don Byas, Jo Jones, and Jimmy Rushing. The performances swing with a quiet elegance, and the legendary Basie rhythm section (with Jones kicking the hell out of his drum kit) is in full force, driving the beat behind "There'll Be Some Changes Made," "You Betcha My Life," "Yes Indeed" (a tune never otherwise recorded by the band), "9:20 Special," "Jumpin' at the Woodside," "Rockin' the Blues," "Swinging the Blues," and more than two dozen others -- and a few, like "Gone With What Wind," that are priceless for their good humor and high spirits. These transcriptions have surprisingly good fidelity (Basie's piano seems to have been particularly well miked), though they're lacking a certain degree of presence and some treble response, but these are easily compensated for. The only flaw in the material, apart from the fact that "One O'Clock Jump" never gets a full performance in three appearances here, is that because these were radio broadcasts, an announcer intrudes into the program every number or so to give us the name of the piece about to be played.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 3:07 Spotify
2 2:48 Spotify
3 3:09 Spotify
4 2:20 Spotify
5 4:04 Spotify
6 3:36 Spotify
7 1:15 Spotify
8 2:31 Spotify
9 3:26 Spotify
10 3:12 Spotify
11 3:11 Spotify
12 3:31 Spotify
13 3:12 Spotify
14 2:55 Spotify
15 2:56
16 3:36 Spotify
17 3:45 Spotify
18 3:32 Spotify
19 3:51 Spotify
20 1:28 Spotify
blue highlight denotes track pick