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Classic of the Week

October 27, 1994|BUDDY SEIGAL

"Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings" (1956)

Verve

Both Basie and Williams were at career crossroads in the mid-'50s. In deciding to put together a new, more progressive big band, Basie had replaced his history-making lineup with a cast of relative unknowns--including Williams, who found himself having to fill the shoes of the seemingly irreplaceable Jimmy Rushing. Both men rose to the occasion; the result was this landmark, top-shelf album. The new band--which included trumpeters Thad Jones and Joe Newman, trombonist Benny Powell, alto saxman Bill Graham and drummer Sonny Payne--adapted bop innovations into the groove with a brassier, more sophisticated swing while the honey-throated Williams proved to be a master of syncopated, voc-cool phrasing and down-home blues, with remarkable control at both ends of his multi-octave range. The choice and interpretation of material perfectly complemented the ensemble's talents: Leroy Carr's "In the Evening (When the Sun Goes Down)" and Basie's much-copied arrangement of Memphis Slim's "Every Day I Have the Blues" went on to immortality. Even though the transfer from album to CD is maddeningly harsh and scratchy, no jazz library is complete without this enduring milestone.

*

Frank Capp and the Juggernaut orchestra will play a tribute to Count Basie Nov. 6 at the Irvine Marriott, 18000 Von Karman Ave, Irvine. 6 to 10 p.m. $25. (714) 553-9449.

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