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.
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".
One of Basie's final albums, the very appealing title cut seems to sum up his career, a lightly swinging groove with a strong melody. Two small-group performances with guest Joe Pass on guitar and the tenor of Kenny Hing add variety to aparticularly strong set.
Features 24 bit remastering and comes with a mini-description. A rare 50s performance – featuring a smoking version of "The Afro Suite" – plus some more boppish numbers too! Dizzy Gillespie was recruited as a special guest to perform on March 13, 1955, in concert with the Orchestra (a Washington, D.C., big band), a date that was recorded by Bill Potts and not initially released until 1983 by Elektra Musician. Although there was only a brief rehearsal of Gillespie with the band prior to their performance of the trumpeter's "The Afro Suite" (which includes "Manteca" plus a trio of pieces written in collaboration with Chico O'Farrill), they provide excellent support for this extended work, which features the composer extensively.
Inarguably one of the most important figures in 20th-century American music, jazz impresario Norman Granz introduced live jazz to mainstream audiences with his Jazz at the Philharmonic concert series, founded four record labels including the legendary Verve Records, managed the careers of icons Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson, and produced a roster of some of the greatest artists in jazz history: Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Bud Powell, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Ben Webster, Lionel Hampton, Benny Carter, Roy Eldridge, and many more. In addition, Granz was dedicated to fighting racism in America by refusing to play to segregated audiences, paying his artists well above average, and offering equal benefits to both black and white musicians all in the mid-1940s to late 1950s, years before the prominence of the burgeoning civil rights movement.
"A Classy Pair" is a most apt title for this session, which features Ella Fitzgerald and the final incarnation of the Count Basie Orchestra, perhaps the last major big band to exist under the baton of its namesake. Recorded in February 1979 and produced by the legendary Norman Granz, these nine tracks show Fitzgerald in a somewhat better light than the orchestra.