Joe Williams (vcl), Reunald Jones, Wendell Culley, Thad Jones, Joe Newman (tp), Bill Hughes, Henry Coker, Benny Powell (tb), Marshall Royal (as, cl), Bill Graham (as), Frank Wess (as, ts, fl), Frank Foster (ts, arr), Charlie Fowlkes (bs, b-cl), Count Basie (p), Freddie Green (g), Eddie Jones (b), Sonny Payne (d), Ernie Willkins, Buddy Bregman (arr)
Reference: FSRCD 655
Bar code: 8427328606554
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Although the musical art of the early-50s Count Basie band had been widely appreciated by jazz fans and musicians even before Joe Williams joined on the Christmas Day, 1954, his arrival as the bands vocalist put the final seal on public approval. It was a marriage made in heaven. From the first day, he won over both jazz fans and r&b audiences with his laconic, deadpan delivery and earthy, beat-rich blues declamatory style.
What Joe WilliamsDown Beats New Star of the Yearbrought to the Basie band was a link to the people, a vocal bridge over which they could join themselves to the band. What Basie got in Williams was not the best blues singer of the age, nor the best ballad singer of the year, but a man who was adapted to the peculiarly complex Basie sound. It took that firmness, that strength of Williams and his qualities as a preacher, to give the band the extra excitement needed to complete the package.
The blues were wailing and swinging and shouting night after night, and the riffs and figures echoed wordless phrases in response to the singers full-bodied vocal belting. Williams backed by the Basie band was a magical combination.
"Joe Williams' debut as the featured vocalist in Count Basie's band was one of those landmark moments that even savy observers don't fully appreciate when it occurs, then realize years later how momentous an event they witnessed. Williams brought a different presence to the great Basie orchestra than the one Jimmy Rushing provided; he couldn't shout like Rushing, but he was more effective on romantic and sentimental material, while he was almost as spectacular on surging blues, up-tempo wailers, and stomping standards. Basie's band maintained an incredible groove behind Williams, who moved from authoritative statements on "Every Day I Have the Blues" and "Please Send Me Someone to Love" to brisk workouts on "Roll 'Em Pete" and his definitive hit, "All Right, OK, You Win."
—Ron Wynn (All Music Guide)