Defying what has become conventional wisdom, tenor saxophonist Lester Young cut some of his greatest recordings in the 1950s – that is, when he was reasonably healthy. On this wonderful effort with pianist Oscar Peterson, guitarist Barney Kessel, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer J.C. Heard, Prez performs definitive versions of "Just You, Just Me" and "Tea for Two," and plays a string of concise but memorable ballad renditions: "On the Sunny Side of the Street," "Almost Like Being in Love," "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," "There Will Never Be Another You," and "I'm Confessin'." This is essential music from a jazz legend. Some reissues augment the original dozen songs with a version of the good-humored "It Takes Two to Tango," which features Young's only recorded vocals, plus a rather unnecessary false start (on "I Can't Get Started," ironically), along with some studio chatter.
This is a fabulous record for anyone who's a fan of Tony Bennett or big-band singers in general. The Basie band backing is terrific; the sound is great, and Bennett's voice was in top form. If you've only recently become a Bennett fan in the past few years ago, you owe it to yourself to hear his voice when it was in peak form.
A state-of-the-art reissue of what was the first of Bennett's albums to get a stereo release.
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…