PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Count Basie: Jazz Moods -- Hot

Robert R. Calder

Count Basie

Jazz Moods -- Hot

Label: Legacy
US Release Date: 2004-06-15
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

The German language has picked up the word "Sampler" and misuses it to refer to any anthology, a point missed by the translator of Thomas Fitterling's decent book Thelonious Monk. This CD is, however, a sampler of the period of the earlier Basie recordings on the Columbia label, only fourteen titles (less than on some vinyl issues) all drawn from the mighty 4-CD set Jason MacNeil reviewed on this site (December 2003). The last eight titles were recorded live, some with at least acceptable sound, some with better. "Swing, Brother, Swing" is a Billie Holiday feature (no personnel details are given -- and this is the best sound in which I've heard anything of that 1937 Savoy Ballroom date, when she was the Basie band's lady singer).

There's one live title with a tenor saxophonist I can't identify by ear but suspect might be Don Byas. The original Basie band had a Texan called Herschel Evans who died of heart disease at only thirty and missed being on the 1939 Columbia recordings. He'd a big impact on Dexter Gordon and Ike Quebec (who delivered Evans's ballad "Blue and Sentimental" as the title track of one of his best Blue Note albums).

The live recordings also show the great trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison at his best. On the most astonishing live performance here, Edison contributes to a chain of solos which opens with an extended one from the great Lester Young and concludes with another by the same man. In both cases Young half- parodies one of Edison's specialties, a drawling or slurred entirely across-the-beat business which swings away from the performance's overall tempo, whether rapid or medium pace. Studio dates hardly indicate the important case of musicians playing off against each other, which the advent of private recording equipment saved for us from a radio broadcast. Edison himself remembered some particularly impressive solos performed live which did get recorded. He'd every right to be proud of them.

The six studio takes include the 1936 small group "Shoe Shine Boy" from the sole isolated pre-Decca contract date, with Lester Young's recorded debut. I'm not sure the dubbing of that item is as clear as it might be, but the balance brings out very vividly the sound of Walter Page's bass, forgotten and historically important and also worth bassists checking on. The permanently installed Basie guitarist Freddie Green was always spoken of as the unique component of the revolutionary All American Rhythm Section, and after him the drummer Jo Jones. Entirely without virtuosity Page had a valuably individual way of swinging a band which later bassists had to match. It's amazing to hear his pioneering work so clearly in this particular music.

Like the 1939 small group masterpiece "Lester Leaps In" (divine!), the remaining four (all big band) studio titles were from Basie's return to the Columbia company after his most individual and to me most interesting period (for him inadequately remunerative, ripped off on a rashly concluded Decca contract for 1937-'39).

They were rough, they were a regional band with a strong bluesy Kansas City accent and a spontaneity seldom matched by any band's studio recordings. Even some studio-recorded climaxes for the whole band depended on the individual hornmen's ingenuity. By 1939 and the Columbia contract, the ensemble was much more rehearsed and it had acquired a library of sheet music arrangements. Something in a series labelled "Hot" ought, as a matter of consistency, to have had more of that -- "Blow Top" is a performance which comes to mind. The live recordings do, however, demonstrate the spontaneous ingenuity which endured when management had removed roughness and rendered the work of ensemble playing less nerve-wracking. That was, however, the foundation of all Basie bands, a category into which Edison admitted the latterday fearsomely drilled Illinois Jacquet organisation. It was forever very hot!

This CD isn't being marketed exactly as a sampler, which raises that question about the choice and balance of selections. Hep and other (including bargain-price) labels have issued more generously filled single CDs of the same sort of Basie, though some bargain firms have bootlegged out-of-copyright music from earlier reissues by companies who deserve the money for having done the work. For links on this latter topic, see www.musicandarts.com. Nothing wrong with the music on this CD, just slightly sloppily compiled in relation to its official designation. When I was a schoolboy and didn't know the live recordings here existed, what wouldn't I have done to hear any of them! I suspect there's a plot to sell this (a) as a casual purchase, (b) as a carrot to attract to the 4-CD set buyers who have long had reissues of the studio-recorded stuff. Et cetera. The playing time's too damned short considering the wealth of stuff from which its fourteen tracks were drawn. But:

Aaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.