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"I Love The Blues Because It's So Natural. It's Life, Man."
on September 17, 2000
That quote, from Joe Williams as part of the liner notes for this remarkable re-issue, emphasizes that blues is not so much a rudimentary style as an approach to music and, especially, lyrics. It's a lesson Basie, Williams, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Bobby Bland, and a generation's country, R&B, and blues performers taught the rock and roll revolution that so quickly followed and incorporated them.
"Basie Swings - Williams Sings" joins jazz vocal panache to Basie's rollicking big-band punch. Williams sings circles around the melodies of "The Comeback," (with its stick-and-move sax punctuation) Joe Turner's "Roll 'Em Pete," (with Williams trilling "Ohwellohwellohwell..." as if he discovered a new instrument) and the huge R&B hit, "Everyday I Have The Blues" (later a B.B. King theme song). Credit Frank Foster's inventive, galloping arrangements (brought to the fore by Phil Schaap's excellent remastering) for bringing fire and funk to what otherwise would've been a swing-era holdover. On the ballad side, "In the Evening" brings flutes and clarinets into a sleepy blues tune that recalls Bland's later, "If You Could Read My Mind."
This LP and its long-running success deservedly expanded and extended Basie and Williams' careers, stretching across pop culture from Basie's three LPs with Frank Sinatra (and a band still performing Foster's arrangements today) to Williams' casting on the "Cosby Show." Most importantly, "Basie Swings - Williams Sings" redefined big band music for the post-rock and roll era, making it essential to jazz, blues, and early rock and roll fans all.