Count Basie inaugurated the recording career of his "New Testament" orchestra with sessions in January and July of 1952, generating the sides on this 10" Mercury LP -- the self-titled album heralded a rich recording history across the rest of the decade of the '50s. The band, which he'd first begun pulling together the previous year, is tight and lean from the get-go. Basie's understated piano intro on "New Basie Blues" opens a superb showcase for the blues-drenched brass (Joe Newman, Paul Campbell, Wendell Culley, Charlie Shavers on trumpets, Henry Coker, Benny Powell, Jimmy Wilkins on trombones) and Paul Quinichette's tenor solo. Neal Hefti's more brisk tempoed, smoother "Sure Thing" gives Quinichette a more prominent solo, pushing his instrument into its high range for a startlingly brittle effect opposite Newman's muted trumpet; and Quinichette and Newman share the spotlight on the still more up-tempo "Why Not." "Hob Nail Boogie" is Basie's piano showcase on this long player, featuring his keyboard as a lead instrument in a driving performance in tandem with a romping brass section. Another highlight of the album is the band's re-conceived version of "Every Tub," a Harry "Sweets" Edison tune that Basie had been doing since 1938, rearranged here by Hefti, and featuring rippling solos by Quinichette, Newman, and Charlie Shavers. And Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis is featured on the tenor sax solo for the breezier, low-key "Paradise Squat" (with Basie on the organ). This was a killer debut for the new band on their new label, and it fairly oozes with good vibes even 55 years after the fact.
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