I always have mixed feelings regarding reviewing a ghost band recording, especially when the leader – whether it be Basie, Ellington, Herman, or Kenton – has been off the scene for decades and few of the present band members have either ever played with the orchestra leader, or at the most just at the tail end of their storied careers.
The Count Basie Orchestra has remained fairly active since the leader’s death in 1984. They remain devoted to the classic Basie band book of arrangements. It is a much easier time playing the Basie book than that of Ellington, as the Basie band relied on swing and power whereas the Ellington band relied on more complex compositions – a much more daunting task.
The latest version of the Basie band is led by trombonist Bill Hughes. They have updated some of Basie’s music, which is refreshing. The usual Basie standard favorites are played in this live Sendai, Japan recording: April in Paris, One O’Clock Jump, Corner Pocket, and Jumpin’ at the Woodside, but the band includes some lesser-known Basie material, as well as the ballad We’re in Love Again, that was written by Ellington’s venerable baritone sax player, Harry Carney.
Drummer Butch Miles, who played with the Count in the late 70s, rejoins the touring band here, which brings some measure of the old Basie rhythm section back. The appreciative Japanese audience shows their adulation for the Basie band, happy to hear a bit of the old Basie magic again.
TrackList: Corner Pocket, Discommotion, Blues in Hoss’ Flat, Segue in C, Basie Power, We’re in Love Again, In a Mellow Tone, Body and Soul, Lover Come Back to Me, Whirly-Bird, Jumpin’ at the Woodside, One O’Clock Jump, April in Paris
– Jeff Krow