Count Basie

The Best of the Roulette Years

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Eight years after Count Basie's death, Capitol Records released this handy 20-song collection of his most notable tracks from the years 1957-1962 that he spent on Roulette Records. The collection opens with the most fruitful component of his relationship with the label, his recordings of Neal Hefti's material and arrangements, beginning with the swinging "Kid From Red Bank" off of The Atomic Mr. Basie, and also includes "The Late Late Show" from The Complete Atomic Basie, but it ranges far beyond that, to Basie's smooth 1960 re-recording of "Jive at Five" and material from the tail-end of his association with Roulette, such as "Lullaby Of Birdland." The selections are confined to the best representative tracks of the band by itself -- none of Basie's work as an accompanist to Tony Bennett or any other singers is here -- and that's an entertaining and enlightening body of work, cool ("Cute") and hot ("Topsy"); the Hefti material is the strongest here, but composers ranging from Basie himself and flatist Frank Wess (whose "Segue in C" is a highlight here), as well as arranger Quincy Jones, get their best heard as well. Two CDs might be more appropriate for a more comprehensive collection, that would include a broader selection of the hundreds of tracks that Basie left behind, and the more recent Atomic Swing CD has better sound, but this mid-priced CD collection is a good introduction for the novice.

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