This truly all-star session finds Basie stepping outside the traditional big band context to stretch out with a few close friends. The venerable Milt Jackson sits in on vibes, sweetly fleshing out a rhythm section that includes Louis Bellson on drums, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen on bass, and the Count himself on keys. The lightning-paced, hard bop vocabulary of tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin and trumpeter Roy Eldridge stretch the swing fabric a bit, while never once disturbing the finger-popping grooves.
The set list consists of three expanded jams: a rave-up treatment of Charlie Parker's "Billie's Bounce," a group original entitled "Festival Blues," and a hard-driving take on Lester Young's "Lester Leaps In." The lengthy tunes give everyone plenty of room to cut loose (including Basie himself, whose spry, articulate style is as appealing here as ever). The combination of classic jazz approach (in Jackson and Basie) and modern sensibility (in the playing of Eldridge and Griffin) works together beautifully on this album of fine, improvisational music.