Thad Jones, Joe Newman (tp), Henry Coker, Benny Powell (tb), Marshall Royal (as, cl), Frank Foster, Frank Wess (ts, fl), Charlie Fowlkes (bs), Count Basie (p), Freddie Green (g), Eddie Jones (b), Sonny Payne (d). Ella Fitzgerald & Joe Williams (vcl)
Reference: FSRCD 617
Bar code: 8427328606172
1956 was a pivotal year for Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Joe Williams. Ella was at the top of her game, Basie was enjoying a second acclaimed career with his New Testament Big Band, and singer Joe Williams had just won the New Jazz Star award in the Critics poll.
With these three magnificent artists on his label, it was a no-brainer for Norman Granz to feature them in two LPs, One OClock Jump and Metronome All-Stars 1956. By now Basie was the leader of probably the hardest swinging band in jazz, and with Ella and Joe on board it was a marriage made in jazz heaven. She and Joe shine throughout, whether singing separately, or adlibbing together as they do on Joes revisited hit Every Day I Have the Blues.
The band swings compulsively behind them at all times, while the fun includes the scat dialogues between Joe and Ella on Party Blues, with Basies small combo backing. Gathered here in chronological order for the first time, these must-have sessions mark a memorable coming together of three major jazz talents.
"The front cover of this CD may be misleading, as Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Williams don't appear on every track, which could be disappointing, especially for those who enjoyed the album Ella & Basie. In fact Ella is only heard on four tracks, three of them duetting with Joe Williams.
Nonetheless this is a splendid album, mainly recorded in 1956, the year before The Atromic Mr Basie, an LP which marked a highpoint in the band's output. The ensemble here includes such virtuosi as Thad Jones, Joe Newman, Marshall Royal and Frank Foster, and is driven by the superb rhythm section of Basie, Greene, Jones and Payne. The original LP contained only tracks 1 to 7 and 8 to 11 but this CD has several recordings added from other sources. The band is heard at its best in the eight-and-a-half minute From Coast To Coast, an Ernie Wilkins composition/arrangement which moves subtly from swing to ballad and back again.
There are three versions of One O'Clock Jump but they are all listenable, with Freddie Greene's rhythmic guitar an essential ingredient in all three performances. Too Close For Comfort is the first of the duets by Joe and Ella, and they go well together. Joe Williams's warm, smoky voice makes a good contrast to Ella's clear vocals. Joe was especially suited to singing the blues, as he does here on songs like Smack Dab in the Middle and Every Day I Have The Blues (on which Ella joins Joe). Of course, the Basie band specialised in the blues.
As for Ella Fitzgerald, she is her usual impeccable self, and it is a pity that she only appears on four tracks. As Ernie Wilkins said: "Part of her wonder is her perfect control of her voice - pitch, phrasing, everything". She adds a vocal to the memorable Basie version of April In Paris and sings along with its "one more time" section. Party Blues has Ella and Joe improvising a blues with lots of scatting and accompaniment by a select octet from the band.
This generous compilation captures Basie's "New Testament Big Band" when it was playing at its swinging best."
Tony Augarde -MusicWeb International