This recording represents the earliest years (1937-1941) of the Count Basie Orchestra. Given the period, the recording quality on MASTERPIECES 8 is extraordinary. Moreover, the disc features legendary performances rendered by icons such as Lester Young, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Herschel Evans, and Jimmy Rushing, among others.
Upon first listen, it is easy to see why Basie's music has become so influential. As heard on MASTERPIECES 8, his orchestra is elastic yet firm, hard swingin' yet buoyant. This was the Basie trademark, and, indeed, the template for much of what was to come in jazz's diverse future. Although Benny Goodman has been hailed the "King of Swing," Basie is its first indisputable monarch. Furthermore, swing's lineage also boasts many of the sidemen heard here. Accordingly, Basie's piano style on MASTERPIECES 8 is characteristically understated yet clearly defined. And players such as the great Lester Young add spice and vigor to the band's already hard-driving swing. Standout tracks include the jazz anthems "One O'Clock Jump" and "Jumpin' at the Woodside."