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From Mosaic Records: Basie, Rich, More

Mosaic is a a truly important resource

Highlights for November 2011. There is much more here at the web page.

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Complete Clef, Mercury and Verve Studio Recordings of Count Basie and his Orchestra (1952-1957)
(#229- MD-CD) 8 CD Limited Edition Collection – $136

“‘An eight-disc reissue shows that the transformation Basie and his new band underwent was subtle and gradual. When the box begins, in 1951, Count (1904-84) had just reunited his band for a one-shot tour with the singer Billy Eckstine.

This group sounded much more like the rough-and-ready edition of the 1940s than the slick machine of the 1960s. That’s partly because many of the players were the same. The rhythm section of Basie, guitarist Freddie Green, and drummer Gus Johnson was intact. Several of the early band’s chief arrangers, including Buck Clayton and Buster Harding, were still contributing new works to the library.

The Count also maintained his trademark innovation of two contrasting tenor saxophone soloists, though the original team of Lester Young and Herschel Evans had been replaced with Paul “The Vice-Pres” Quinichette and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. By 1953, the latter two would be followed by Frank Wess and Frank Foster, who along with singer Joe Williams would help define the 1950s version of the Basie band. ‘ – Will Friedwald, New York Sun”

“When Count Basie reformed his big band in the 1950s, 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.

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. Financial problems forced Basie to disband the group, but by 1952 he was ready to give it another go. With a new breed of players in the 1950s, and the period’s most accomplished arrangers doing the writing, Basie re-invented himself.

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.

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, Ernie Wilkins, Paul Quinichette, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Joe Wilder, Frank Wess, Frank Foster, Thad Jones, and Sonny Payne became known during their tenure with Basie. Guest stars included Al Hibbler, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Rich, and Oscar Peterson.

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. Instrumental hits included “Shiny Stockings” and “April in Paris”.

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Buddy Rich: Classic Argo, Emarcy and Verve Small Group Sessions
Mosaic Records (#232) $119

“With all the international fame and his musical legacy, it’s amazing that there was never a major retrospective on CD. This limited edition collection is a complete look at Rich when he was, without question, a top star. The seven-CDs features studio dates and live performances from 1953 to 1961 in quartet, quintet, sextet, septet, and octet settings – plus, an 11-piece orchestra. A few tracks only issued in Japan.

There are delightful surprises from a sea of known talents that include Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison, Benny Carter, Thad Jones, Ben Webster, Oscar Peterson, and more:
• A 1954 session includes inspired playing by Harry “Sweets” Edison.
• Webster’s and Peterson’s presence on a 1955 date with borrowed Basie-ites; Thad Jones, Joe Newman, Frank Wess, and Freddie Green, make for exciting listening.
• The ‘orchestra’ assembled in 1956 includes two sets of great Basie tunes with a all-star band featuring Frank Rosolino, Pete Candoli, Buddy Collete, Jimmy Rowles, and others.
• A highlight of the set is a 1957 quartet with fabulous blowing by Flip Phillips.

Buddy Rich created a sound that is unmistakable, set standards that were unshakable, and achieved a level of stardom rare in any style of music. Rarely will you find such agility and power, simultaneously.”

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