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Ken Burns Jazz: Definitive Count Basie CD

Like many artists in the series of CDs accompanying Ken Burns's 10-part documentary Jazz, Count Basie did some label hopping through his career. This makes a definitive greatest-hits collection rather difficult. Another complicating factor is Basie's unflappable evenness. His music was almost always on the money, mixing lithe swing with hard-punching riffs and rhythms with awesome balance. This 19-song collection begins with Basie at the piano in Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra for 1932's "Toby." They're kicking much harder than Basie would later advocate in his own bands, but the light's burning no less bright for that. The 10 tracks following "Toby" show Basie the bandleader chugging in the late 1930s with an all-star cast. Lester Young's blowing cool tenor while the band bounces on "John's Idea" and "Jumpin' at the Woodside." The set shifts to the 1940s with "9:20 Special" and then to the 1950s with "Softly, with Feeling." The final five tunes, all dating from the mid-1950s, find Basie laying back, not resting on any laurels, but celebrating the grooves he pioneered two decades before. If there was one missing element here, it might be Decca-era Jimmy Rushing belting out "Sent for You Yesterday," but that's quibbling with an almost bulletproof set that's spectacular.


1. Toby
2. One O'Clock Jump
3. John's Idea
4. Topsy
5. Jumpin' at the Woodside
6. Swingin' the Blues
7. Blue and Sentimental
8. Doggin' Around
9. Dark Rapture
10. Cherokee, Parts 1 & 2
11. Goin' to Chicago
12. Jive at Five
13. 9:20 Special
14. Softly, With Feeling
15. Corner Pocket
16. April in Paris
17. Every Day I Have the Blues
18. Shiny Stockings
19. Li'l Darlin'