modest sampler, immodestly billed, not unique, a few of Basie's best Columbia records.
The music's great, and the sound, but the title's still a misnomer. Basie's very best has to include material from his early, financially disastrous Decca contract. At least there's a selection from the 1936 quintet date where Lester Young, at 27, makes his belated recording debut. On the 1942 Los Angeles remake of "One O'Clock Jump", the 1937 band's alto player Caughey (Coshy) Roberts returns to join his brilliant replacement Earle Warren. Lovely saxophone section sound. Buddy Tate opens on tenor, and his solo debut with the band, "Rock-a-bye-Basie", is also here. He also follows Young's tenor solo on the first half of the two-part "Miss Thing" (Sweet Sue was her original name); besides the "One O'Clock" remake, it's the only studio-recorded music here which I didn't know as a schoolboy. Other than the solos from Earle Warren and Buck Clayton, "Miss Thing"'s second half is a demonstration of ensemble dynamics and swing, suggesting a problematic abbreviation of a live feature. "Tickle Toe" is a Lester Young tune arranged by Andy Gibson and showing the finesse of the saxophone genius; Basie in lower-Fi has an impressive piano feature at the opening of "Moten Swing", live from the Panther Room, with Buck Clayton on muted trumpet, and Dicky Wells playing obbligato to the ensemble theme statement. On the live "Jumpin' at the Woodside" Don Byas solos on tenor, and that number ends with the reprise of "One O'Clock Jump" usually delivered at the end of a set by this band. 14 tracks -- not a generous selection, probably not as good a buy as the recent Jazz Moods selection, and no buy at all if you already have that one. Too many duplications, which is dopey!