Count Basie this weekend. An American institution, Basie was a fixture from the 1930s all the way up until just before his death in 1984. An enduring figure whose innovations and constantly evolving style kept him at the forefront. His popularity was worldwide – he was as well known and loved as much in the far reaches as he was in the States, maybe more so as time and musical changes went on.
This concert, recorded by the Italian Radio-TV outlet RAI in Milan on April 6, 1960 features an all-star get-together. With Snooky Young, Sonny Cohn, Joe Newman and Buck Clayton, trumpets – Benny Powell, trombone – Frank Wess, Feank Foster and Billy Mitchell, sax – Freddie Green, guitar, Eddie Jones on bass, Sonny Payne, drums and the Count himself on piano and a thoroughly knocked-out studio audience.
And as Wikipedia puts it:
“In 1958, the band made its first European tour. Jazz was especially appreciated in France, The Netherlands, and Germany in the 1950s; these countries were the stomping grounds for many expatriate American jazz stars who were either resurrecting their careers or sitting out the years of racial divide in the United States. Neal Hefti began to provide arrangements, notably “Lil Darlin'”. By the mid-1950s, Basie’s band had become one of the preeminent backing big bands for some of the most prominent jazz vocalists of the time. They also toured with the “Birdland Stars of 1955”, whose lineup included Sarah Vaughan, Erroll Garner, Lester Young, George Shearing, and Stan Getz.
In 1957, Basie released the live album Count Basie at Newport. “April in Paris” (arrangement by Wild Bill Davis) was a best-selling instrumental and the title song for the hit album. The Basie band made two tours in the British Isles and on the second, they put on a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II, along with Judy Garland, Vera Lynn, and Mario Lanza. He was a guest on ABC’s The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, a venue also opened to several other black entertainers. In 1959, Basie’s band recorded a “greatest hits” double album The Count Basie Story (Frank Foster, arranger) and “Basie and Eckstine, Inc.”: album featuring Billy Eckstine, Quincy Jones (as arranger) and the Count Basie Orchestra. It was released by Roulette Records, then later reissued by Capitol Records.
Later that year, Basie appeared on a television special with Fred Astaire, featuring a dance solo to “Sweet Georgia Brown”, followed in January 1961 by Basie performing at one of the five John F. Kennedy Inaugural Balls. That summer, Basie and Duke Ellington combined forces for the recording First Time! The Count Meets the Duke, each providing four numbers from their play books.
During the balance of the 1960s, the band kept busy with tours, recordings, television appearances, festivals, Las Vegas shows, and travel abroad, including cruises. Some time around 1964, Basie adopted his trademark yachting cap”.
Sit back, crank this one up and relax – this one makes Sunday a whole lot easier.