You can tell how badly Columbia Records has bolixed up their Count Basie catalog -- in contrast to Decca/MCA -- by looking at the credits for this well-intended 17-song compilation. All but one track here (a Basie/Ellington pair-up from the early '60s on "Jumpin' at the Woodside") also appears on several other Basie collections (The Essential Count Basie Vols. 1-3, among others), but none of it appears to have been upgraded in sound quality in any major way from those late-'80s and early-'90s releases. The condition of some of the tracks, such as the noise on "Lester Leaps In," may also explain why Columbia hasn't done a definitive early-Basie collection in the manner of MCA with its Decca and Brunswick sides -- they may not have sufficiently high-grade sources available for such a box. Otherwise, the sound here is passable; it ought to jump out at you, the way it would with 20-bit remastering, but it doesn't, and the volume is low by modern standards. And the selection is close to first-rate for a mid-length mid-priced disc, containing some of the key touchstones ("Lady Be Good," "One O'Clock Jump," "Lester Leaps In," "Broadway," etc.) of Basie's Columbia history, with a couple of vocal numbers ("Goin' to Chicago Blues," "How Long How Long Blues") featuring Jimmy Rushing. But all this does is increase the exposure of Basie's best work for the label and the need for a box.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder