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Well, Count Basie isn't going with Goodman after all, and I guess the boys in the band felt pretty good about it last Monday, when they were doing a one-nighter at the noisy, smoke-filled Eggleston Gardens. Now that kind of atmosphere is right up the Basie alley, and consequently they played jazz as I've never heard them play it before.
I've also heard them when the reeds were sloppy, the brass worse, and when the soloists just didn't feel like playing. Yet even in these moments of inconsistency, they have managed to turn out a brand of music that's hard to beat in any league. And the reason for this is the Base drive, that elusive rhythmic quality that makes the orchestra at once aggressive and relaxed. They have been accused of playing noises, but this isn't true. There's a clear-cut distinction between a band that screams because it's expected to and a band that drives because that's the way the boys feel. Just compare the Basic brass section with Harry James' or Glenn Miller's and I think you'll see what I mean. There are swing bands and swing bands, but the Count is unique in having an ensemble whose savage attack is purely spontancous, and consequently relaxed. Now this word "relaxed," I realize, has become a standing joke around these parts, yet it's the only way to describe how Count Basic's orchestra plays, because it constitutes the difference between Basic and bands of the Glenn Miller type. The latter aren't relaxed, and they just don't swing that's all there is to it.
Finally I'd like to mention the heartbeat of this collective cuthusiasm the rhythm section. Count Basic may not be your favorite orchestra, but you'll have to go far to find a rhythm section as completely sensitive to the ensemble attack and phrasing, as the Count's. Remember that with four men Jo Jones on drums, Freddic Green on guitar, Walter Page on bass, and Basie himself on piano--the experiment of using the section as a solo unit was first carried out. Listen to the release choruses on records like Doggin' Around and Jumpin' at the Woodside and see how the four men alone build up the drive for eight eight-bars, so that the rest of the band really jumps when they pick it up. Without the Basie rhythm section, it just wouldn't be the Basie band, the band which for my money is the tops.
NEWS AND REW RELEASES. The Count's latest: Blues featuring Lester Young's tenor sax pyrotechnics, a vocal by Jimmy Rushing, and an Earl Warren alto chorus backed by clean muted brass. Reverse, The Apple Jump, is graced by a very delicate Basic piano solo (OKEH) ... Best Five O'clock Whistle of the week is by Will Bradley (COLUMBIA). Ray McKinley and Doc Goldberg scat their way through the novelty vocal, and Bradley takes a swell trombone ride with a tom-tom backing... Johnny Hodges steals the show on Duke Ellington's Warm Valley (VICTOR), a slow, dreamy tune, arrangement of which is remarkably unpretentious. Reverse, The Flaming Sword, says "fox-trot" on the label, but just try dancing to it, and the elaborate rhythmic patterns will have you giving out on the old one-two-three-kick... Lionel Hampton's latest offering features an unusual combination: rhythm section with two guitars, Spanish (Douglas Daniels) and electric (Teddy Bunn). Coupling is Pigfoot Sonata and Just for Laffs and both guitars take all the honors (VICTOR)... Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis, Mary Lou Williams, Joe Sullivan and Pete Johnson, are among the eight-beat pianists featured in DECCA's Boogie-Woogie Album. Best of the records is Ammons' Boogie-Woogie Stomp, with the fine trumpet of Guy Kelly, as well as Albert's own rolling bass... Benny Goodman of 1940, heard at his Totem-Pole one nighter, is one of the biggest things in jazz since the Goodman of 1936... Highlights: Cootie Williams with the Sextet, playing half an hour straight, including Honeysuckle Rose and a lot of fast blues... Benny will go to Rochester Sunday, where he and the Sextet will be featured with the Rochester Symphony Orchestra... More next Saturday.
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