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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

Crotchet £27

His Orchestra
The Columbia Years
Columbia/Legacy 512892-2
4CD Pack


  1. Shoe Shine Boy
  2. Evenin’
  3. Boogie Woogie (I May Be Wrong)
  4. Oh, Lady Be Good
  5. I Ain’t Got Nobody
  6. Goin’ To Chicago Blues
  7. Live & Love Tonight
  8. Love Me or Leave Me
  9. Dickie’s Dreams
  10. Lester Leaps In
  11. How Long Blues
  12. Royal Garden Blues
  13. Bugle Blues
  14. Sugar Blues
  15. Farewell Blues
  16. Café Society Blues
  17. Way Back Blues
  18. St Louis Blues
  19. Neal’s Idea
  20. Bluebeard Blues
  21. The Golden Bullet
  22. You’re My Baby

Tracks 1 to 4

Carl "Tatti" Smith – Trumpet
Lester Young – Tenor
Basie – Piano
Walter Page – Bass
Jo Jones – Drums
Vocal by Jimmy Rushing on tracks 2 & 3
Tracks 5 to 8

Buck Clayton, Shad Collins – Trumpet
Dickie Wells – Trombone (track 6 only)
Lester Young – Tenor
Basie – Piano & Organ
Freddie Green – Guitar
Walter Page – Bass
Jo Jones - Drums
Vocal by Jimmy Rushing on track 6
Tracks 9 & 10

Buck Clayton - Trumpet
Dickie Wells – Trombone
Lester Young – Tenor
Rhythm section as previous tracks
Tracks 11 to 18

Buck Clayton – Trumpet and Don Byas – Tenor, appear on tracks 12,13,14 & !8 only
The remaining players are as the previous session.
Tracks 19 to 22

Clark Terry - Trumpet
Buddy De Franco – Clarinet
Charlie Rouse – Tenor
Serge Charloff – Baritone
Basie – Piano
Freddie Green - Guitar
Jimmy Lewis – Bass
Buddy Rich - Drums
Neal Hefti - Arranger
The music on CD1 comes from the period 1936 to 1950

The first session from 1936 is remarkable in many ways; it was the first recording by Lester Young, a genius of the tenor saxophone who continues to influence many saxophone players long after his death. Many of the greatest names in the history of the tenor saxophone paid homage to his unique style which they absorbed into their

own playing, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Flip Phillips and Stan Getz, to name but a few! Never before had a rhythm section played with such cohesion, the makings of everything that the Count was to do in the future started here.

In the Count himself we gradually here the sparse playing he was famous for developing, on the earlier recordings he plays mostly ‘stride’ piano, which was his starting point. It had the great advantage as a training ground for jazz pianists; it required them to be as competent with each hand.

Another Basie trade mark the "Ching Chang, Ching Chang" of Freddie Green’s guitar playing starts to emerge, Freddie Green helped the band to swing which is the opposite of what most guitar players do for a big band. His first appearance is on the last four tracks of disc one; these were recorded in 1950 some 8 years after the previous session. I guess it was to make interesting programming that the sessions are not arranged in chronological order and the band certainly took a step development between the two sessions mentioned. Quality arrangements from Neal Hefti and a front line boasting Terry, De Franco, Rouse and Charloff, driven along by Buddy Rich no less, was bound to produce some fireworks.

This first CD is devoted to Basie in small group settings, everything Basie had anything to do with had certain qualities, it swings, the rhythm section is always excellent, his own sparse ‘comping’ is ideal for any soloist and he always hired the best guys who were around at the time.

  1. Song of the Islands
  2. These Foolish Things
  3. I’m Confessin’
  4. One O’Clock Jump
  5. I Ain’t Got Nobody
  6. Little White Lies
  7. I’ll remember April
  8. Tootie
  9. Rock-A-Bye Basie
  10. One Hour
  11. Taxi War Dance
  12. Twelfth Street Rag
  13. Miss Thing, Part 1
  14. Miss Thing, Part 2
  15. Nobody Knows (Take 1)
  16. Pound Cake
  17. Song of the Islands
  18. Clap Hands! Here Comes Charlie
  19. Tickle Toe
  20. Louisiana
  21. Easy Does It
  22. Somebody Stole My Gal
  23. I want a Little Girl

Tracks 1 to 8

Clark Terry – Trumpet
Buddy De Franco – Clarinet
Wardell Gray – Tenor
Rudy Rutherford – Baritone
Basie – piano
Freddie Green – Guitar
Jimmy Lewis – Bass
Gus Johnson - Drums
Tracks 9 to 23

Buck Clayton, Shad Collins, Harry Edison, Ed Lewis – Trumpets
Dan Minor, Benny Morton, Dickie Wells – Trombones
Earl Warren, Lester Young, Buddy Tate, Jack Washington – Saxes
Basie – Piano
Freddie Green – Guitar
Walter Page – Bass
Jo Jones – Drums

CD2 starts with an excellent Basie Octet from 1950, with a line-up that included Clark Terry, Buddy de Franco and Wardell Gray, this band could not fail. It is a great pity that Wardell Gray lived for such a short period; he was an outstanding exponent of the Tenor Saxophone. The ensembles are neat; the arrangements interesting, the soloists exceptional and Basie himself solos more than he ever did with the big bands.

The big band tracks here date to 1939, there are guest vocals from Helen Hume and Jimmy Rushing and this must have been the start of the Basie bands we know and love. Rock A Bye and Taxi War Dance are head arrangements, unusual for such a large band, Lester Young had a hand in both. Twelfth Street Rag is also a head arrangement done as a feature for the Count and then Lester Young and later Harry Edison. Skippy Martin did the arrangements of both parts of Miss Thing and the band really does start to develop the sounds of the latter day Basie bands, the good dynamics and section playing are to the fore as well as the outstanding soloists. Interestingly it must have been made into two parts to suit the 78-rpm media that was around at the time because it is really all one piece! Nobody Knows is a feature for Jimmy Rushing, who was such a part of the early Basie story, his blues inspired vocals always stopped the show. A different version of Song of the Islands starts with Harry Edison playing the melody loosely over the ensemble, there are a few bars by Lester Young and then the Count himself solos in his own unique style, the arrangement is thought to be by Buck Clayton. Clap Hands has a tremendous chorus from Lester Young showing just what an influence on every Tenor player of the period he was. The next number is probably Lester’s most famous composition Tickle Toe and once again he solos to perfection.

Somebody Stole My Girl is a feature Jimmy Rushing backed only by Harry Ediswan, Jack Washington and the rhythm section. It gives Jack a chance to solo that he doesn’t do much of on the other tracks. Jimmy is also featured on the last track and he sounds more at home with this number than the former, which was more of a music hall song than a jazzer.

CD2 has a nice mixture of Basie Bands large and small and some excellent solos.


  1. Five O’Clock Whistle
  2. Broadway
  3. It’s the Same Old South
  4. Jump the Blues Away
  5. The Jitters
  6. 9;20 Special
  7. Goin’ to Chicago Blues
  8. Harvard Blues
  9. One O’Clock Jump
  10. It’s Sand, Man
  11. Ain’t It the Truth
  12. Taps Miller
  13. Avenue C
  14. Blue Skies
  15. Queer St
  16. Lazy Lady Blues
  17. Rambo
  18. The King
  19. Hob Nail Boogie
  20. Mutton Leg
  21. Stay on It
  22. Little Pony
  23. Beaver Junction

Tracks 1 to 7

Buck Clayton, Al Killian, Harry Edison, Ed Lewis – Trumpet
Dan Minor, Vic Dickenson, Dickie Wells – Trombone
Earle Warren, Lester Young, Buddy Tate, Jack Washington – Saxes
Basie – Piano
Freddie Green – Guitar
Walter Page – Bass
Jo Jones – Drums
Tracks 8 to 11

Trumpets as previous tracks
Dickie Wells, Robert Scott, Eli Robinson – Trombones
Tab Smith, Earle Warren, Buddy Tate, Don Byas, Jack Washington – Saxes
Rhythm section as previous tracks.
Tracks 11 to 23

These tracks have too many changes to list here.

These are all Basie classics from the 1940 band. It is interest to contrast the styles of the two tenor players, Buddy Tate’s sound is nearer to the classic Coleman Hawkins sound. Hawkins himself plays as a guest on 9:20 Special; an arrangement by Buck Clayton still played by many rehearsal bands today. Many other famous tenor players appear in various tracks here Wardell Gray, Don Byas, Illinois Jacquet and Lucky Thomson are all heard to good effect. The Basie band in the period 1940 to 1950 started building into the formidable outfit that we heard in the 1950’s and right up to the time of Basie’s death. The tracks include many classics 9:20 Special, One O’Clock Jump, Broadway and Taps Miller to name just a few. The well-constructed jazz solos permeate each track, as does the precision of the band and that wonderful Basie band feel which makes every number interesting.

I find myself in total disagreement with the sleeve note writer who says these bands were better than the bands of the later 50’s. Of my musical associates there is total agreement that ‘The Atomic Mr Basie’ is the best big band album that has ever been made. The ensemble playing is superb and the soloists second to none. That is not to say that these Basie bands aren’t good, they are and to me as a great Basie fan, I found it fascinating as to how the skills of the arrangers and the soloists got better and better over the period.

All the tracks on CD3 are interesting but the outstanding ones for me are the last three, the solos from Clark Terry and Wardell Gray are as good as you will ever here and the ensemble work has got the classic Basie Big Band sound that was to follow. The Neal Hefti arrangement on Little Pony also signposted things to come.

  1. One O’Clock Jump
  2. Swingin’ the Blues
  3. Rock-A-Basie
  4. Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me
  5. Time Out
  6. Boogie Woogie Blues
  7. Roseland Shuffle
  8. White Sails
  9. Clap Hands! Here Comes Charlie
  10. One O’Clock Jump
  11. They Can’t Take That Away From Me
  12. Swing, Brother Swing
  13. I Can’t Get Started
  14. Moten Swing
  15. Ebony Rhapsody
  16. Darn That Dream
  17. Take It, Pres
  18. Baby, Don’t Tell Me
  19. I Got Rhythm
  20. 9:20 Special
  21. Elmer’s Tune
  22. Jumpin’ At The Woodside

CD 4 comes from radio broadcasts and Concerts by the band. Most of the material on this CD has not been released before.
Tracks 1 to 10

Buck Clayton, Shad Collins, Harry Edison, Ed Lewis – Trumpet
Dan Minor, Benny Moten, Dickie Wells – Trombone
Earle Warren, Buddy Tate, Lester Young, Jack Washington – Saxes
Basie – Piano
Walter Page – Bass
Jo Jones – Drums
Helen Humes and Jimmy Rushing sing on 3 tracks.
Tracks 11 to 19 have only minor personnel changes
Tracks 20 to 22

Buck Clayton, Harry Edison, Al Killian, Ed Lewis – trumpet
Dickie Wells, Eli Robinson, Robert Scott – Trombone
Tab Smith. Earle Warren, Don Byas, Buddy Tate, Jack Washington – Saxes
Rhythm Section as previously listed


The first sequence is from a broadcast from the ‘Famous Door’.

LesterYoung is the outstanding soloist on the Famous Door session, one of the giants of the tenor saxophone; he is at his best on this set. The advantage of these broadcasts is we get to hear the full version of arrangements, which in many cases had to be abridged to get them on to 78rpm records. Helen Humes manages to make the very ordinary White Sails song into something worth listening to and Jimmy Rushing is his usual self on Boogie Woogie Blues. The band is outstanding on Roseland Shuffle that starts with some interesting exchanges between The Count and Lester Young

Tracks 11, 12 & 13 are very special, although Billie Holiday worked with the Basie band for a year; she never recorded with them at that time, due to contractual arrangements. There is an obvious empathy between Billie and the band worthy of preservation. Moten swing has an extended piano intro that is followed by an outstanding chorus by Harry Edison, who was already at 18 developing his signature style. Helen Humes brings her vocal talents to Darn That Dream, the arrangement is not of the best but the quality of the composition and her vocal ability pull things through.

Lester Young is again the star on I Got Rhythm, his solos stand the test of time well and it is always a treat to hear him in action, whatever the setting. Edison & Dickinson follow and are equally inspired in their solos. 9:20 Special is the same arrangement as we heard earlier, but this time Don Byas is the Tenor Sax soloist. The band sounds nice and relaxed and the ensembles are well played. Elmer’s Tune was a big hit for the Glenn Miller Band, but this version is pure Basie and includes two Baritones in the saxophone section. The last track Jumpin’ at the Woodside is the usual Basie arrangement, but this time Don Byas is the soloist and he adds a new dimension to the music. Very different from the Lester Young original, but very enjoyable.

The music on this CD is sometimes referred to as ‘The Old Testament’ as far as the Basie Band is concerned. The term is not meant to be derogatory and there is no reason why it should be. This is how Count Basie developed the best big band ever and how the reputations of many fine soloists were made. It is my opinion that it is essentially listening to all lovers of Big Band Music. It is well packaged with comprehensive personnel details and a most informative sleeve note written by Toren Schonberg who is Executive Director of the Jazz Museum in Harlem.
Don Mather

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