Count Basie (p, lead), Clark Terry, Joe Newman, Snooky Young, Thad Jones, Wendell Culley, Al Porcino, Lamar Wright, Charlie Shavers, Joe Wilder (tp), Johnny Mandel (b-tp), Booty Wood, Al Grey, Henry Coker, Grover Mitchell, Benny Powell (tb), Marshall Royal, Bill Graham, Ernie Wilkins, Paul Quinichette, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Frank Wess, Frank Foster, Wardell Gray, Lucky Thompson, Billy Mitchell, Charlie Fowlkes (reeds), Freddie Green (g), Eddie Jones, Jimmy Lewis, Buddy Catlett (b), Sonny Payne, Gus Johnson (d), Neal Hefti (arr)
Reference: FSRCD 777
Bar code: 8427328607773
For years arrangers tried to capture the unique, free-wheeling spirit of the early Count Basie band. Eventually, the old spontaneity of the bristling heads surrendered to the creativity of young arrangers like Neal Hefti, who scored the entire performances included in this set. Hefti, who achieved success in commercial popular music and in jazz, was in jazz terms indelibly associated with the new Count Basie Orchestra of the 50s.
From 1951 to 1956, when Basie recorded mainly for the Clef and Verve labels, Heftis subtle compositions eased Basies band evolution into a new, rather stylized ensemble sound, with a solid, forceful rhythmic pulse. The Basie-Hefti collaboration reached its peak in the 1957-58 Roulette albums, "The Atomic Mr. Basie" and "Basie Plays Hefti," with the band a precise yet vigorously expressive unit operating impressively on Heftis originals, replete with soloists who could speak with more authority than many of their big band counterparts. Never before had Basies band been better recorded, the thrill and full potential of its sound caught on tape. And when Basie returned to Verve in 1962, Hefti again provided him with a new set of typically varied arrangements for "On My Way & Shoutin' Again," the last album in a long-lived, memorable and thoroughly craftsmanlike collaboration.
-The Atomic Basie
The release of this album in late 1957 marked the beginning of a glorious new phase in Count Basie's career. Signed to Roulette Records, the newly formed label owned by Morris Levy, the New York recording entrepreneur, jukebox mogul, club owner, and quasi-underworld figure, it took Basie's core audience and a lot of other people by surprise, as a bold, forward-looking statement within the context of a big-band recording -- if not as daring as what Duke Ellington had done at Newport in 1956, still a reminder that there was room for fresh, even dazzling improvisation (especially courtesy of Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis's contribution) within the framework of a big-band jazz unit. The band and its key members were all "on" for these two days of sessions, and Neal Hefti's arrangements gave all concerned a chance to show what they could do. Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, stands out from the get-go with his solo on "Flight of the Foo Birds," a rewriting of "Give Me the Simple Life" on which the tenor-man shares the stage with Thad Jones's trumpet solo, but nearly knock Jones off that same stage with his pyrotechnics. Davis plunges into new territory, defining the Basie "Atomic" period with his solo on "Whirly-Birds" (originally less aptly titled "Roller Coaster"), which soars into the air on his break. Joe Newman and Thad Jones's muted trumpets are the featured instruments on "Duet." "The Kid From Red Bank" offers an unusual showcase for Basie himself at the piano, playing the least number of notes possible to surprise and bedazzle the listener, while "Li'l Darlin'" offers the Basie band's answer to Ellington's "Mood Indigo."
Bruce Eder -All Music Guide
-Basie Plays Hefti
"The Count Basie Orchestra was in top form for this set of Neal Hefti arrangements. Hefti had been one of the main architects of the new Basie sound of the '50s and on this memorable date he utilizes the flute of Frank Wess prominently. "Cute" (heard here in its initial recording) became a standard."
Scott Yanow -All Music Guide
-On My Way & Shoutin' Again
"Basie Plays Hefti. While none of these selections is as famous as his songs like "Cute," "Little Pony," "Splanky," "Li'l Darlin'," and "Repetition," the substantial originality of this music is hard to deny, not to mention that the expert musicians playing his music bring these tracks fully to life in a livelier fashion than most laid-back Basie studio sessions. In fact, it has the feeling of a concert date that trumps the more clean, controlled environment of a session that was recorded on a three-track reel-to-reel. There's also plenty of room for exceptional solos from most of the participants, as Hefti is mindful of who is in the band and how each musician might sound when given his head. This is tried and true swing-oriented modern big-band music that actually sounds advanced for its time frame, and is solid as anything Basie has done post-"April in Paris." The band is atypically bold and brazen on the opener, "I'm Shoutin' Again," with Frank Wess on alto (not tenor) sax for his spirited solo. The great chart of "Jump for Johnny" is a hard bopper for Johnny Carson, basic Basie with tenor saxophonist Frank Foster and trumpeter Sonny Cohn trading licks. Hefti's best work is showcased during "Together Again," as the hopping brass and singing horns take tuneful twists and turns. This set also includes the classic track "The Long Night," a famous blues featuring the sly flute of Wess in front of the horn section and a masterful muted solo by trumpeter Thad Jones. There are other tunes that are derivative, as you can clearly hear the borrowed phrases of "C Jam Blues"/"Duke's Place" in the low-key then blasted-out "Eee Dee," "Shiny Stockings" sprinkled about during the more typical laid-back "Rose Bud," and "Groove Merchant" or "Hallelujah, I Just Love Him So" in the easy-swinging soul groove of "Ain't That Right." Hefti's movie soundtrack experience comes to the fore on "Shanghaied," definite spy music with Cohn's muted trumpet masking phobias and paranoia. There are two cute tunes: "Skippin' with Skitch," led by three flutes (Wess, Eric Dixon, and Charlie Fowlkes); and the lightly strutting "Ducky Bumps," featuring Henry Coker's trombone, with brief solos from Basie's piano and bassist Buddy Catlett. A solid and worthwhile album that has been out of print for far too long, this will be a welcome addition to any Basie lover's collection, and comes highly recommended to anyone even mildly interested in excellent large-ensemble mainstream jazz."
Michael G. Nastos -All Music Guide