Count Basie came to prominence in the late 1930s when his Orchestra was first recorded by John Hammond in Kansas City. With an astounding rhythm section that allowed the horns an unparalleled level of freedom, they became stars after moving to New York. Except for a short period in the early 50s, the band existed until Basie’s death in the mid-1980s. Bob Thiele had been a fan of Basie since the 30s and took the opportunity to make a new album with him when it presented itself. He didn’t try to contemporise Basie by having him play covers of the latest pop hits, but treated him as the master jazz musician he was. Given tunes written by Oliver Nelson, Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders and Gabor Szabo, with arrangements by Nelson, he proved himself capable of being as modern as any player. There are many great moments on this album, including his abstract solo on Sanders’ ‘Japan’ and his duel with flautist Hubert Laws on ‘Gypsy Queen’. This is probably Basie’s last great album.
By Dean Rudland