Count Basie had an impressively long career; the influential pianist/bandleader/arranger formed his first big band in 1935 and maintained a busy schedule during the final months of his life (which ended in 1984 -- almost half a century after his first post-Bennie Moten performances as a leader). Over the years, Basie was pleasingly consistent; nonetheless, some of his recordings are more essential than others, and Swinging the Blues: 1930-1939 tends to favor the more essential offerings from his early period. This 62-minute collection, which was assembled by veteran jazz critic Scott Yanow for Allegro's Jazz Legends imprint, isn't the last word on early, pre-'40s Basie. The original February 1939 recording of "Goin' to Chicago Blues" (featuring singer Jimmy Rushing) is missing, as is Basie's classic 1939 arrangement of "I Can't Believe That You're in Love With Me" (which also featured Rushing). But if Swinging the Blues isn't quite the ideal summation of pre-'40s Basie, it's still an excellent, consistently rewarding CD. "One O'Clock Jump," "Jumpin' at the Woodside," "Jive at Five," and the ballad "Blue and Sentimental" are all included, and those are some of the most essential gems that Basie recorded in the '30s. Like other discs on Jazz Legends, Swinging the Blues offers the material in chronological order; the first two selections (1930's "Somebody Stole My Gal" and 1932's "Moten Swing") are from a time when Basie was still a sideman in Moten's Kansas City Orchestra and had yet to form his own big band. But most of the CD is devoted to Basie's work as a leader, and despite the absence of a few essential '30s recordings, Swinging the Blues paints a highly attractive picture of the Count during that period.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
feat: Bennie Moten
feat: Bennie Moten
feat: Jones-Smith, Inc.
feat: Count Basie Orchestra