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Count Basie: Recordings, 1929-1950

Guide about Count Basie with biography, annotated listing of recordings, videos, readings, interviews, oral histories, and websites.

Famous Door 1938

Recordings, 1929-1939, 1950

NOTE: All recordings listed below are in the collection of the Institute of Jazz Studies.

Basie Beginnings (1929-1932)
Bluebird 9768 (CD)
This CD includes Count Basie’s debut recordings with Bennie Moten and the Kansas City Orchestra, one of the leading territory bands of its day when he joined it as second pianist in 1929. Basie demonstrates his technique is capable of swamping the keyboard with lots of notes, though he chose to trim his technique to emphasize his rhythmic, harmonic and melodic choices.

America's #1 Band: The Columbia Years (1936-1950)
Sony 87110 (CD)
Original sessions produced by John Hammond.
Recordings from this set range from live radio airchecks from the band’s New York debut at the Famous Door; the immortal Jones-Smith Incorporated recordings from 1936 (Lester Young’s debut session); the band’s recordings from the late 1930s and early 1940s to the octet recordings of 1950 when Basie temporarily disbanded between 1950 and 1951.

Classic Columbia, OKeh and Vocalion Lester Young and Count Basie (1936-1940)
Mosaic Records, 4 CDs, MD4-239, 2008
Original sessions produced by John Hammond.
This set features many newly found alternate recordings on Columbia, OKeh and Vocalion where there is a solo by Lester Young. Also included is a Columbia session by organist Glenn Hardman featuring Pres (Young’s nickname) and a Benny Goodman Septet session for Columbia with Basie and Young that went unreleased until 1973.

Classic 1936-1947 Count Basie and Lester Young Studio Sessions
Mosaic Records, 8 CDs, MD8-263, 2016
Original recordings produced by John Hammond, Milt Gabler, Norman Granz, probably J. Mayo Williams, Bob Thiele, Harry Lim, and Leonard Feather.
This set represents all of Count Basie’s Decca sessions and those led by Pres or where he makes a significant solo effort as a sideman on various Universal-owned labels (Commodore, Aladdin, Keynote, and Decca). There is a bonus disc of material not included in Mosaic MD4-239.

The Savory Collection, Volume 2—Jumpin’ at the Woodside: The Count Basie Orchestra (featuring Lester Young)
These restored and remastered live radio broadcasts recorded by William Savory and acquired by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem show the Basie band with Young. Four volumes of the Savory Collection may be downloaded from Apple Music via iTunes.  The four Savory volumes are available (along with 12 additional tracks) on the six-CD The Savory Collection, 1935-1940, on Mosaic Records, MD6-266, 2018.

The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert
Columbia 160 (LP); Columbia 65143 (CD)
The seminal concert on January 16, 1938 organized by Benny Goodman, but only released on record in 1950, sold over one-million copies, making it one of the top-selling jazz records of all time. Count Basie and Basieites Lester Young, Buck Clayton, Freddie Green and Walter Page contributed their talents to the event.

From Spirituals to Swing: Carnegie Hall Concerts, 1938 and 1939
Vanguard 47/48 (LP); Vanguard 169 (CD)
John Hammond’s groundbreaking From Spirituals to Swing concerts presented a survey of African-American music from gospel to blues to jazz. Both concerts show the Basie band in top form, with guests including small groups featuring Lester Young, Buck Clayton (tp), Oran “Hot Lips” Page (tp) and vocalist Helen Humes, and the big band, which included an appearance on electric guitar innovator Charlie Christian.

Recordings with Charlie Christian
Charlie Christian (1916-1942), born in Bonham, Texas and reared in Oklahoma City, was a significant figure in retiring the guitar as an exclusively rhythmic instrument in jazz to that of a soloist. His single string, melodic approach on the electric guitar gained the attention of John Hammond, who recommended Christian to Benny Goodman in 1940. The bandleader quickly brought Christian on board. He was among many important musicians in the development of bebop, or at least being a precursor in the rise of modern jazz. Christian died of tuberculosis in 1942 at the age of 25.

Benny Goodman Sextet
Classics 1098 (CD), February 7, 1940
Goodman sextet with Basie, Charlie Christian (el-g), Lionel Hampton (vib), Artie Bernstein (b), and Nick Fatool (d).

Charlie Christian: The Genius of the Electric Guitar
Columbia C4K65564 (CD), Columbia Records rehearsal session, October 28, 1940
Buck Clayton (tp), Benny Goodman (cl), Lester Young (ts), Count Basie (p), Charlie Christian, Freddie Green (g), Walter Page (b), and Jo Jones (d)

Benny Goodman Sextet
Columbia C4K65564 (CD); Masters of Jazz MJCD67, Masters of Jazz (F)MJCD (CD
Goodman sextet with Cootie Williams (tp), Benny Goodman (cl), Georgie Auld (ts), Count Basie (p), Charlie Christian (el-g), Artie Bernstein (b) and Harry Jaeger (d)


Recordings, 1940-1950

Benny Goodman Sextet
Jazz Archive, JA23 (CD), Broadcast Make Believe Ballroom, November 19, 1940
Benny Goodman (cl), Cootie Williams (tp), Georgie Auld (ts),Count Basie (p), Charlie Christian (el-g), Artie Bernstein (b), and Harry Jaeger (d)

Benny Goodman Octet
Masters of Jazz MJCD 68 (CD), Masters of Jazz 189, January 15, 1941 Buck Clayton (tp), Benny Goodman (cl), Lester Young (ts), Count Basie (p), Charlie Christian (el-g), Freddie Green (g), Walter Page (b), and Jo Jones (d)

Metronome All Stars
Classic Jazz CDCD1121 (CD), January 16, 1941 Harry James, Ziggy Elman, Cootie Williams (tp), Tommy Dorsey, J.C. Higginbotham (tb), Benny Goodman (cl), Toots Mondello, Benny Carter (as), Coleman Hawkins, Tex Beneke (ts), Count Basie (p), Charlie Christian (el-g), Artie Bernstein (b) and Buddy Rich (d)

Benny Goodman and His Orchestra and His Septet
Nimbus (E)NI2734/35 (CD) NBC Radio radio program, What’s New, February 24, 1941 Cootie Williams (tp), Benny Goodman (cl) ,Georgie Auld (ts), Count Basie, Charlie Christian (el-g), Artie Bernstein (b), and Dave Tough (d)

Count Basie and His Orchestra

Count Basie and His Orchestra, 1940-1941
Classics 623 (CD), November 19, 1940-April 10, 1941, OKeh
These recording reflect the post-Lester Young years when his chair was ultimately filled by tenor saxophone great Don Byas. There are a few final recorded vocals by Helen Humes who left the band six months after Young’s departure. Coleman Hawkins (ts) appears on five selections on the April 1941 date.

Count Basie and His Orchestra, 1941
Classics 652 (CD), May 21, 1941-November 17, 1941, OKeh Among the highlights is Jimmy Rushing’s interpretation of “Harvard Blues,” vocals by the little-remembered Lynn Sherman, who replaced Humes, and great solo work by Buck Clayton (tp) on “Fiesta in Blue, and the premier of Freddie Green’s classic “Down for Double.” Paul Robeson, with a little coaching from Rushing, sings a tribute to boxer Joe Louis, “King Joe, Parts 1 and 2.”

Count Basie and His Orchestra, 1942
Classics 684 (CD), January 21, 1942 (OKeh); April 3 and July 24 and 27, 1942, ColumbiaThe majority of Basie’s recordings in 1942 were made for Columbia, which rushed the band into the studio in July to get fresh material in the can before what turned out to be a two-year recording ban that got underway on August 1. Buddy Tate (ts) and Don Byas (ts) are heard to great effect on “One O’Clock Jump,” as is Jimmy Rushing “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town.”

Count Basie and His Orchestra, 1943-1945
Classics 801 (CD), July 1943-October 30, 1944, V-Disc; December 6, 1944, Columbia; January 22, 1945, V-DiscsThis period sees the 1944 return of Lester Young to the Basie band and a number of V-Disc recording for the army. Because of the size of these discs, there are many recordings that allow the musicians stretch out and, as a result, are superior than commercial recordings, such as tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate’s superior work on “Dance of the Gremlins” and Don Byas’ solo on “Circus in Rhythm” and “Jimmy’s Blues.” There are also a number of tunes the band never recorded commercially.

Count Basie and His Orchestra, 1945-1946
Classics 934 (CD), February 26, 1945, Columbia; May 14, 1945, V-Disc; October 9, 1945-January 9, 1946, Columbia; February 4, 1946, Columbia and Parlophone Of particular significance during the two years covered in this volume are the departure of tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson and his replacement by veteran big bandsman and solo star Illinois Jacquet. Special treats include Buck Clayton’s fine arrangement on “Avenue C” with equally superb solos by Thompson and Harry Edison (tp).

The Indispensable Count Basie, 1947-1950
RCA 43688 (FR) (LP); RCA 66497, 1992 (CD) The 37 recordings made for RCA Victor between January 1947 and August 1949 show the Basie band in the period before he disbanded the band for two years in 1950. These recordings fall into a gray area as far as appreciation of even among Basie aficionados. Singer Jimmy Rushing, with whom Basie had been associated for almost 20 years, figures prominently in these sessions as does the appearance of tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves, who joined Basie for four years before gaining wide recognition with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Much good music is heard from tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate, a member of the Basie outfit since 1939. Among the brass section, great performances are heard from trumpeters Harry Edison, Emmett Berry, Ed Lewis, Snooky Young, Clark Terry, and Gerald Wilson; and trombonist Dicky Wells.


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