BASIE NEW TESTAMENT BAND BRINGS HIM (AND SWING) SUCCESS ALL OVER AGAIN. :: eJazzNews.com : T New CD Releases: BASIE NEW TESTAMENT BAND BRINGS HIM (AND SWING) SUCCESS ALL OVER AGAIN.
Posted by: editoron Sunday, May 01, 2005 - 05:31 PM
Jazz News ONE MORE TIME!"
BASIE NEW TESTAMENT BAND BRINGS HIM (AND SWING) SUCCESS ALL OVER AGAIN.
When the bubble burst, and the great Swing Era ended, bandleaders looked for new ways to present themselves to a public less inclined to leap to their feet and more interested in listening.
For Woody Herman, that meant fusing swing's aesthetics with the new dynamism of bebop. Stan Kenton started concentrating on more compositional work, as colors drawn from classical music began augmenting his jazz palette.
And Count Basie? Well, when he reformed his big band in the 1950s - the period covered by a brand-new Mosaic reissue set - he managed to become entirely new by sticking with what had made him great from the start. And in the process, Basie achieved some of the most extraordinary success of his career.
Other bands' writers in the heyday of swing focused their composing and arranging talents on creating sometimes intricate charts tailored to the leaders' styles, for band members to interpret. From his beginnings in the 1930s, Basie was doing something different. His band had always been about how the arrangements forced you to listen to the improvising: to the playing. With a new breed of players in the 1950s, and the period's most accomplished arrangers doing the writing, Basie re-invented himself. True, his 1950s arrangers were more conscious of building a book that could withstand personnel changes, but listeners familiar with Basie's riff-and-solo formula weren't disappointed. The sound was modern and relevant because the players were young, with ideas still blooming. But the feel was comfortable to swing devotees because the style was unmistakably Basie, all the way.
Kansas City Here I Come
In his twenties, William Basie, a Red Bank, New Jersey native, was working as an accompanist to a touring act when, in 1927, he found himself stranded in Kansas City. For a musician interested in jazz, that was a pretty good place to wind up. He had a regular gig playing behind silent films in movie halls. And he got exposure to a style of big band playing that was kind of a Kansas City signature, where the rhythm section was the hub of the band. Against a steady four-beat drum cadence and a walking bass, brass and reeds played off each other, setting the stage for the soloists with their lighthearted ensemble banter.
Basie got experience with other bandleaders, then formed his own group where the best of Kansas City's contribution to jazz got even better. Over time, he assembled a group that included Lester Young, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Buck Clayton, Dicky Wells, Jimmy Rushing and others. His unparalleled rhythm section, which rehearsed for hours and hours alone to get it just right, included Freddie Green, Walter Page, and Jo Jones. The band was widely viewed as the swingingest of swing bands.
Success the Second Time Around
Financial problems forced Basie to disband the group, but by 1952 he was ready to give it another go. By now, top arrangers knew how to write to accentuate the most distinctive elements of the Basie sound - brevity, call and response, and lilting melodies that balanced on the precipice of syncopation. Basie loved the crowd-pleasing effect of dramatic dynamics, so his writers used it liberally, though you never felt you were being walloped just for the effect. And Basie's minimal playing was just the thing to anchor the band and take the edge off the power.
He employed the era's best composers and arrangers, and they left their mark not only on the orchestra but on musical history as well. They included Ralph Burns, Wild Bill Davis, Frank Foster, Freddie Green, Thad Jones, Johnny Mandel, Frank Wess, Ernie Wilkins and the amazing Neal Hefti.
A new breed of soloists became stand-outs in what was known as "The New Testament" band. Names such as Joe Newman, Benny Powell, Marshal Royal, Wilkins, Paul Quinichette, Gus Johnson, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Joe Wilder, Henderson Chambers, Wess, Foster, Thad Jones, and Sonny Payne became known during their tenure with Basie. The rhythm section over time included bassists Jimmy Lewis, Eddie Jones, Gene Ramey and Ray Brown, drummer Gus Johnson, and the ever-present Freddie Green on guitar. Guest stars included Al Hibbler, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Rich, and Oscar Peterson.
. . . And starring Joe Williams
Another name that became a household word thanks to his association with Count Basie is the inimitable Joe Williams. "Everyday I Have the Blues," "All Right, Okay, You Win," and "Smack Dab in the Middle" weren't just jazz sensations, they were huge hits on the radio and in jukeboxes across the country. Instrumental hits included "Shiny Stockings" and "April in Paris," featuring Basie's familiar "one more time" and "one more once" reprises.
The original reel to reel tapes were the source for most of this release which contains 146 tracks on eight CDs, including seven previously-unreleased recordings and three alternates not in the vaults at Universal Music.
Chris Albertson's liner notes take the reader through each and every recording, in addition to laying out what was happening to the band outside the booth; details that suggest he's had access to everyone's date book from the period. The complete discography clears up many inaccuracies and inconsistencies that have bedeviled the release of this material for a half-a-century.
For many listeners, this band and these recordings constituted a first exposure to swing music. This exhaustive collection shows why they'll always be associated with good times and why the Basie Orchestra lasted longer than any in jazz.
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