A great many people, possessed by the perfectly respectable emotion of nostalgia, tend to say of this or that artist that he is as good as ever he was.
As no artist since the world began is ever as good as he was, or as bad either for that matter, comparative assessments of that kind must always be regarded with deep suspicion. In jazz particularly, where the swift movement of epochs and generations combines with excessive sentimentalizing of the great soloists to create the perfect climate for fond reminiscence, the exercise is to be sharply avoided. I have always shunned it myself, and even insisted to the point of seeming ungallant that, say Lester and Billie were not quite so inspired at the end of their lives as they were in their youth.
Having said that, I must now find some way of reconciling with the impression which Count Basie’s playing in this album has left on me, and in order to do so I have to go back to my introduction to Basie’s style back in the early 1940s. It was through the Goodman Sextet recordings as well as those with his own orchestra that I first became conversant with the curious amendment of the classic Stride piano school’s approach that Basie had perfected. It was an utterly original amendment, just as remarkable in its own way as the adaptations which Duke Ellington made to the same style, in that where Duke somehow fashioned out of the James P. Johnson method an extraordinary dazzling romanticism, Basie did the opposite and pared everything down to the point where the dominant mannerism of his jazz was economy. It is often said that the first major soloist in jazz to deploy the musical effect of silence was Lester Young, and it is not hard to guess who encouraged him.
01. Doubling Blues
02. Hanging Out (Count Basie)
03. Red Bank Blues (Count Basie)
05. Freeport Blues
COUNT BASIE, piano & organ
LOUIE BELLSON, drums
RAY BROWN, bass Irving
J.J. JOHNSON, trombone
HARRY EDISON, trumpet
EDDIE DAVIS, tenor sax
ZOOT SIMS, tenor sax
Originally released in 1975 by Pablo Records.