Count Basie

Definitive Columbia Best Recordings

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This Spanish-made, 26-song collection, covering releases from Rock-A-Bye Basie on March 18, 1939 until Blue Skies on October 9, 1945, is completely unauthorized, and it has some flaws, but it is superior to anything that Columbia-Legacy has out on the Count. The reality is that there are enough Basie Columbia sides to make a good four- or five-CD set, but Columbia has done nothing about his catalog in at least a decade, and what does exist seemed even a little substandard at the time, with anemic sound and lots of noise. This disc is an improvement, though it still suffers from source problems -- surface noise and fuzziness that shouldn't be present, especially on "The World Is Mad, Pts. 1 & 2," and "Harvard Blues." On the other hand, the volume is reasonably healthy, and the material that is sharp -- the Buck Clayton trumpet solos, the Jimmy Rushing vocals, the Basie piano parts, and Walter Page's bass on almost everything -- is improved over the older Columbia Essential Count Basie CDs. Indeed, the smoothness and warmth of the sound are a revelation for Basie material of this era, as when Lester Young's tenor sax comes in on the break for "Easy Does It," or Earl Warren's and Buddy Tate's alto and tenor instruments romp over "Let Me See." In its 1942 remake, "One O'Clock Jump" sounds at least 20 years newer than it has a right to sound. The jacket notes are minimal, but there is good session information. The producers of this disc obviously have some production problems of their own to work out (the spine on the jewel case reads "Definitive Decca Best Recordings"), but they've treated the music better than Columbia Records did.