Top positive review
28 people found this helpful
on 29 December 2003
"Ella and Basie!" is a triumph in most respects. A monumental meeting of three giants of swing music.
First of all, not much needs to be said at all of the personnel involved, other than it meets the high standards already set by all involved. The band are on no less than top form, and absolutely breeze through the material, tighter than ever.
This represents possibly the best ever, in my opinion, of the New Testament Basie band: The rhythm section by now, have established a close rapport and support the band superbly, the understated/underrated chunking of Freddie Green's guitar, the exuberant rock solid thumping of Sonny Payne's drums, and the charismatic touches of Basie's piano, it's all here. As explained in the new liner notes, the Count often used a subbing pianist to imitate his style, but not at this session.
This album acts as the perfect antidote to the going-through-the-motions feel that sometimes was felt with Ella's preceding series of Songbooks: Ella is ecstatic, and nothing but spot on in every respect. Unlike in the songbook albums, she is allowed free-reign, and this culminates in countless scat exchanges between her and the band, or her and a particular soloist, such as Thad Jones, Joe Newman or Frank Foster (all of which shine throughout).
The arrangements by Quincy Jones were a healthy change for Ella from the swing arrangements (Paul Weston, Buddy Bregman, Nelson Riddle) she had used for the past eight years, being bluesy and brimming over with sizzling ensemble passages, just up the Basie Band's street.
The production on the album could not have been better, in my opinion. Norman Granz, who was responsible for the concept, has given us a dry, clean sound, devoid of reverb and extraneous noise that might clutter the slick sound.
And this sumptous reissue comes to us complete with six extra tracks, complete with studio chatter and false starts, etc.
At this point in time, a year after the Beatles had hit the charts for the first time, and in the middle of Elvismania, who might expect a rash last-hope grab by such Jazz stars, who have reigned supreme for so long. Especially Norman Granz, who has been criticised for making a commercial spectacle of Jazz music. But no. They did the best thing imaginable: A fresh revamping of some golden swing material, with two of the biggest veterans in their own fields.
It must have been a glorious sight to behold.