Thursday, June 30, 2011

Count Basie: The Best of Basie Vol. 1

Review # 27
Artist: Count Basie
Title: The Best of Basie Vol. 1 (1937-1938)
Format: LP
Label: MCA
Year: 1974 (?)
Songs: 12

Like my copy of The Glenn Miller Story record, this is a French record and I had a hard time tracking down the year it was actually released. The best I could come up with, from a website where a private collector was selling some of his records, was 1974. This is actually the fourth volume of a French classic jazz collection, of which I don't have any other volumes. But that's what you get for a dollar and it was a dollar well spent.

While the record was released in the 1970s, these songs themselves, are all from the 1930s, specifically '37 and '38. That makes these recordings not the earliest in Basie's career, but certainly early ones. They fall squarely within the Bassie's classic big-band swing period and include classics like Basie's own "One O'Clock Jump" and other well known tunes like "Honey Suckle Rose." The songs are mostly fast-paced instrumental dance numbers (with a couple exceptions like the slower "Blues in the Dark," and the more up-beat "Sent For You Yesterday," both or which are blues numbers performed with a vocalist). I just had my first dance class and most of the songs on this record sound like they'd be good for practicing my steps, although some of them sound too fast for me to keep up, given my skill level. Count Basie was the king (or, I suppose, the Count) of swing-style jazz, and he and his orchestra don't disappoint for a minute on this collection. It's fun and catchy and makes you want to move your feet. I wish more people still played music like this. It makes me feel happy.

With old recordings like these, there are often problems with the sound quality, but these all sound great. Yes, like many recordings from this period, the low end doesn't come through as fully as I might like, even on my big old wooden console record player with it's beautiful, resonant sound.  But there's no tape hiss or distortion distracting from these songs, and my copy of the record is in excellent condition, so it just sounds good from beginning to end.

Like I wrote in a previous review, jazz is not my area of expertise, and this record offers little to expand my knowledge other than the recordings themselves. The notes on the sleeve are extensive, but sadly I don't speak any French. So I'll leave this review here  by saying that this is a fine collection of songs performed by a man who was a true master of his style.

If you aren't familiar with it, here's Basie and his orchestra performing "One O'Clock Jump."

Total songs listened: 332

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