Producer Norman Granz occasionally got carried away with the quantity of his recording projects. In 1974 he recorded a full album teaming fellow pianists Count Basie and Oscar Peterson in a rhythm quintet; little did anyone realize that this then-unique matchup would eventually result in five albums. This first one, which finds Basie doubling on organ, is among the best. Peterson's virtuosic style somehow worked very well with Basie's sparse playing and these ten numbers really swing.
This CD reissue dates from Thad Jones' single year of leadership of the Count Basie Orchestra before his health began to fail. Caterina Valente (best known as a pop singer) has a warm voice and sounds comfortable singing in a jazz-influenced middle-of-the-road style. There is little improvisation on the date and Thad Jones' arrangements leave surprisingly little space for solos; his only appearance on cornet is on "Solitude."
The first DVD of Ralph Gleason's Jazz Casual TV series combines three separate 30-minute programs previously available individually as videos; obviously this is the better way to acquire them, both financially and from a preservation standpoint. Count Basie's appearance is a bit unusual. Gleason parks himself next to the piano following the opening number and remains there throughout the show, making Basie seem nervous and rather uncomfortable with his host during the interview excerpts and rarely, if ever, looking Gleason in the eye while talking to him.
Three decades after the fact, people looking at releases like This Time by Basie would tend to dismiss it as pandering, Count Basie doing a "pops"-type outing – the cheesy cover art even emphasized the songs over Basie and his band. Nothing could be further from the truth, however – this 16-song release reveals a wonderful body of work, and deserves to be better known. For starters, This Time by Basie swings, smooth and easy but taut, or hot and heavy. From Sonny Payne's understated cymbal intro to "This Could Be the Start of Something Big" to the bluesier notes of "One Mint Julep," Basie and company sound like…
Joe Williams' debut as the featured vocalist in Count Basie's band was one of those landmark moments that even savvy 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".