Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Unbelievably good, Unbelievably historic, Wow
Tony Thomas | SUNNY ISLES BEACH, FL USA | 07/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had heard the LP put out in the 1950s of this great program. I have owned it on tape. I've seen portions of the performances in Jazz documentaries over the decades. I even bought the VHS as a Christmas present for my Dad.
Simply nothing prepared me for how much fun and joy it was to watch this. Nothing!
The story goes that this was underwritten by a wealthy Jazz lover who paid for such a great bevy of Jazz legends to be gathered in the studio that it included the three greatest tenor men in Jazz history--Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, and Ben Webster--Basie and Freddie Green reunited with Joe Jones, Danny Barker, Billie Holiday, Buck Clayton, Milt Hinton, Hank Jones, Thelonius Monk, Pee Wee Russel, Jimmy Jufree (know I can't spell that right), and others I have probably forgetten like the great Vic Dickinson and the super great Jimmie Rushing.
Seeing all these musicians together, jamming, though most of the big band events are really united by the principles of Basieism Old Testment style with the sold All-America Rhythm Section beat provided by the three originals, Basie, Green, and Jones with Eddie Jones filling in more than adequately on base. You have a lot of that with Old Testment Baseites like Rushing, Morton, and Dickinson returning to join the Count and barely any of the new Testament crowd in evidence. Of course, on top of these soloists having Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster just in the room, let alone playing their horns, was probably Basie's dream.
The only concession to Bop Here is Thelonius Monk who plays a cool version of Blue Monk supported by his own bass and drums. Monk said having Count Basie staring at him on the other side of the piano during his tune didn't exactly make him happy, but you won't notice that on the DVD.
Generally, seeing the reactions of the different musicians to others playing is one of the best things about this DVD. I especially love seeing Jimmie Rushing and Billie digging the band sessions just walking around singing. I have heard on live recordings like Basie at Newport, the impact of Jimmie Rushing's encouragment and hand clapping and shouting to swing the Basie band, and heard more about that from elders who were there, but to see this actually happening, and to see as well as hear Jimmie sing, oh my oh my, why dont I go home and spend all day playing this over and over.
The most famous part of this DVD is the Billie's performance of Fine and Mellow with Lester Young Soloing. Folks have written songs and poems just about this one cut long before this thing was available on video. They say when it was over everyone in the TV control room was in tears.
Lester was not well that day and so he only participated in this one cut. He played in the slow, deliberate understated way he did when his body wasn't up to the punishment he was giving it by drinking a quart of bourbon every day for 10 years! His great collaboration with Billie Holiday from 1937 to 1941 had ended when Billie became a heroin addict because Prez refused to have anything to do with anyone who used needles. And this was a great moment to see the artistry pouring out of both of them, even though they had both destroyed the bodies that had made them great artists in the 1930s and 1940s.
As much as I have worshipped Lester's solo and Billie's singing on this track, recognition needs to be given to Ben Webster's solo on this tune. Webster had actually been working with Billie in the great set of Verve recordings they did with folks like Harry Sweets Edison. In fact, while Lester's work with Billie in the 1930s is the true masterpiece of vocalist instrumentalist collaboration, Webster and Sweets later work needs some mention.
Jerry Mulligan's solo on Fine and Mellow would also be famous were it not for the Lester/Billie connection. You not only hear it but you can see Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins being wowed by Mulligan's playing.
In fact, besides the overwhelming fact of the superiority of the swinging nature of Basieism, the thing that impressed me most was the playing of Webster and Coleman Hawkins who were veterans of the 1930s--and in Hawkin's case the 1920s--who could still play it hard, dirty, and almost bopish in the 1950s.
Juffre's third-stream number is interesting, although it mainly impresses one with how pallid 3-d stream and "cool" or "West Coast" Jazz was compared to Black swing and Dixieland or bop. We get to see this vividly when Juffre and Pee Wee Russell trade clarinet solos on a blues jam afterwards. Juffre is clearly slumping off compared to the strength drive and dirtiness of Russel.
The cult-hero of this film is the great drummer Joe Jones who appears with every one of the ensembles. His drumming is relaxed, fluid, time keeping, and his interaction with the other players is one of the most interesting things in the film.
In the clarinet duo, we can see him kind of grimacing and being a little irked and bored while Juffre plays while he brightens up for Russell. I really like digging him when he has the big band going and the old Basieite rhythm is being revived.
On the DVD you get two extras, sets that were cut from the broadcast that are not on the LP. One is a forgettable Ahmad Jamal trio performance where Jamal focuses on pyrotechnics and not swing, on demonstrating his technical skills without really communicating much musically. He is immediately shown up by the playing of the great Hank Jones in an ensemble led by Ben Webster that includes Buck Clayton and Vick Dickinson (it would be interesting to know why Clayton never plays in the Basie sets since at the time Clayton was making his famous Buck Clayton Breakdowns which were recordings of Baseites and Southwestern era musicans creating old testament Basie music after Basie had gone on to the new.)
Oh how could I forget the two numbers done by a traditional jazz combo led by Red Allen. There is some really great playing by Allen and by Vick Dickinson and Coleman Hawkins.
This is simply so good that you are going to play this like a record, over and over again.
Spell check please
Ralph Geiger | Washington, DC | 03/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The previous reviewer has good taste, but he managed to misspell Jimmy Giuffre, Thelonious Monk, Pee Wee Russell, Vic Dickenson, Jimmy Rushing, Jo Jones, and Gerry Mulligan. Sheesh! Anyway, the program is a must-have."