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Montreux '77

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Album Review

Count Basie always seemed to kick things up a notch when he took his big band out on-stage, and this early morning set recorded at the 1977 Montreux Jazz Festival is no exception. This edition of the band was a good one, with the presence of Al Grey, Jimmy Forrest, Charles Fowlkes, and of course, the heartbeat of the band, Freddie Green. Basie was not one to coast by sticking to endless rehashing of the same old hits for decades; newer contributions include the furious opener "The Heat's On" and the jaunty "Freckle Face," both written by Sam Nestico; tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest is featured on his original ballad "Bag of Dreams." But Basie was also aware he needed to please the crowd by dipping into familiar material, so he showcases Al Grey in an easygoing take of "The More I See You" and trumpeter Waymon Reed in a driving performance of "A Night in Tunisia." The set wraps with a trio of tunes forever associated with Count Basie: the elegant "Li'l Darlin'" and rousing renditions of "Jumpin' at the Woodside" and the obligatory finale of "One O'Clock Jump." Producer Norman Granz mentions in his notes that Basie's piano is more prominent in the mix due to the engineer's unfamiliarity with the band's typical recorded sound, but as a result, all of the rhythm section, including the overlooked Freddie Green, can be more easily appreciated by novice jazz fans for the fuel they provide to the large ensemble.


Born: 21 August 1904 in Red Bank, NJ

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Count Basie was among the most important bandleaders of the swing era. With the exception of a brief period in the early '50s, he led a big band from 1935 until his death almost 50 years later, and the band continued to perform after he died. Basie's orchestra was characterized by a light, swinging rhythm section that he led from the piano, lively ensemble work, and generous soloing. Basie was not a composer like Duke Ellington or an important soloist like Benny Goodman. His instrument was his band,...
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