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Count Basie – Circus in Rhythm: Radio Transcriptions and V Discs 1944-45

Count Basie and his Orchestra
rec. 1944-45

NAXOS JAZZ LEGENDS 8.120820 [61:32]



1. Down For Double
2. Rockabye Basie
3. Rockin' The Blues
4. Do Nothing Till You Here From Me
5. Wiggle Woogie
6. Basie Boogie
7. Red Bank Boogie
8. Kansas City Stride
9. Circus In Rhythm
10. Gee Baby Ain't I Good To You
11. Basie Strides Again
12. Let's Jump
13. Tush
14. Jimmy's Blues
15. Taps Miller
16. Take Me Back
17. Baby
18. Just An Old Manuscript
19. Playhouse No. 2
20. Sugar Hill Shuffle

As a result of the Petrillo recording ban there was a two-year gap in American recordings. The ban ended in December 1944, by which time Basie’s star trumpeter Buck Clayton and bassist Walter Page had enlisted in the army. Their replacements were Sweets Edison and Rodney Richardson and the 1944-45 band can be heard in this collection of transcriptions and V-Discs, none of course susceptible to bans as they were destined for radio station use and for American servicemen overseas respectively.

The repertoire is a mix of tried (and tested) and unusual. It’s unusual to find Don Redman’s Just an Old Manuscript after the 1940s and doubly good to find it here. Elsewhere we find Jimmy Rushing and Thelma Carpenter joining the band – Carpenter sings the Ellington Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me and Rushing sings three songs long associated with him, all with his characteristic ebullience and style.

Buddy Tate, replacing Herschel Evans, always made a tonally and stylistically fruitful section colleague for Lester Young. Tate solos fluently and excitingly on. Rockabye Basie. Earle Warren, altoist and section leader, was an unusually modest player unwilling to push himself forward, but he solos frequently here. Eager and elegant he marks one of the lesser-sung voices in the band. By contrast Dickie Wells, one of the supreme trombonists in jazz, proves urgent, pungent and witty – that buzzy tone illuminating everything he plays; his obbligato to Rushing on Jimmy’s Blues is a killer. One of the most unusual features of the band at that time is the solo space given to Rudy Rutherford, whose baritone work is embedded in the sectional work but whose clarinet playing – whilst not especially distinctive – represents one of the underused features of the Basie band; tenors were always to the fore with Basie, unlike Ellington.

Lester Young’s influence can be felt throughout; he takes some characteristic solos, phrasing so far behind the beat that he almost redefines the nature of swing. He and Tate are not, perhaps, quite the two-tenor team that Young and Evans were but they made a formidable team nevertheless.

A number of the Lang-Worth transcriptions have been issued before, if not all of them. Music & Arts had a good selection and other companies have made a contribution toward presenting them in good sound. With decent notes and good recorded sound – no scrunch or detritus – Naxos’s fourth Basie volume is an attractive proposition.

Jonathan Woolf

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