– Count Basie and His Orchestra – Live at The Hollywood Bowl – August 11, 1967 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Count Basie reformed the jazz orchestra in 1952 for a series of tours, not only in the United States, but also in Europe in 1954 and Japan in 1963. The band released new recordings, some featuring guest singers such as Joe Williams, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Billy Eckstine. All relied on contributions from arrangers, some of whom are now synonymous with the Basie band: Neal Hefti, Quincy Jones and Sammy Nestico. Michael G. Nastos wrote of the recording with Eckstine:
“When the Count Basie Orchestra consented to team up with vocalist Billy Eckstine, choruses of angels must have shouted hallelujah. The combination of Basie’s sweet jazz and Eckstine’s low-down blues sensibilities meshed well on this one-shot deal, a program mostly of downtrodden songs perfectly suited for the band and the man.”
This new band became known as “The New Testament” or “The Second Testament”. With albums such as The Atomic Mr. Basie (1958), April in Paris (1957) and Basie Plays Hefti (1958), the new Count Basie Orchestra sound became identifiable. The sound of the band was now that of a tight ensemble: heavier and more full bodied, contrasting with the riff-based band of the late 1930s and early 1940s. Whereas previously the emphasis had been on providing space for exemplary soloists such as Lester Young and Buck Clayton, now the focus had shifted to the arrangements, despite the presence of soloists such as trumpeter Thad Jones and saxophonist Frank Foster. This orchestral style continues as the typical sound of the band up to the present day, which has been criticized by some musicologists. In his book The Swing Era, Gunther Schuller described the group as “perfected neo-classicism…a most glorious dead end.” However, jazz critic Martin Williams offers a differing view. In his book Jazz Heritage, Williams wrote the following about a 1959 recording: ” . . . obviously this Count Basie orchestra is an ensemble whose virtues center on discipline, precision, and collective power.” In his book The Jazz Tradition, Williams wrote:
“Since the mid-‘fifties, the Count Basie Orchestra has been a superb precision ensemble, and perhaps the greatest brass ensemble of the century. And that fact adds an irony to a distinguished career, for it was not always such.”
For this Hollywood Bowl gig, the band’s in fine form and the audience is pretty much packed.
A good time was had by all.
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