Count Basie Orchestra Salutes the Jazz Masters – Swinging, Singing, Playing (Arr. & cond. by Dennis Wilson) – Mack Avenue MAC 1048 ****:
Any Basie album is bound to be a kick, and this is the latest, forward-looking effort produced by Dennis Wilson along with Al Pryor. The 11 tunes come from such stellar names as Andre Previn, Oscar Levant, Quincy Jones, Sarah Vaughan and Jerome Kern. The guest instrumentalists include Geri Allen, Jamie Cullum, Hank Jones, Rufus Reid and Frank Wess.
One thing sets this CD aside from most Basie albums – a concentration on vocals. The guest vocalists are Jamie Cullum, Nnenna Freelon, Jon Hendricks and Janis Siegel. Frankly I wasn’t prepared for so many vocals, but with the insistent beat of the Basie Band backing them they were enjoyable. Nnenna Freelon’s vocal on Too Close for Comfort makes a smash opening for the CD, but I don’t believe Jon Hendricks’ struggling vocalese on the closing track should have been included; it makes a disturbing conclusion to the album.
Too Close for Comfort, Giant Blues Flag Waver, Like Young, Jessica’s Day, Blame It on my Youth, Close Your Eyes, Haiomi’s Blues, Yesterdays, I Have Waited So Long, Dark Morning, Blues on Mack Avenue.
– John Henry