Jazz Icons: Count Basie features one of the greatest big band orchestras captured at the height of their considerable powers. Billed frequently as the Â"most explosive force in jazz,Â" this recently discovered 60-minute concert, taped in Sweden in 1962, highlights the legendary musical talents of this 18-piece band which included such luminaries as Marshal Royal, Freddie Green, Quentin Â"ButterÂ" Jackson, Frank Wess and sensational drummer Sonny Payne. This is the earliest known complete concert of Count Basie and his orchestra to be released on DVD. Stellar performances include Â"Corner Pocket,Â" Â"Old Man River,Â" and Â"One OÂClock Jump.Â"
A lot of words can be used to describe the performance of the Count Basie Orchestra on Live in '62
, an hour-long concert recorded in Sweden, but one will suffice: swingin'. No big band, not even the great Duke Ellington's, ever swung as relentlessly, or effortlessly, as Basie's various ensembles, and this one is a prime example. Having split up his so-called "Old Testament" band in the early '50s, Basie was at it again a few years later with this "New Testament" outfit, which featured great players like trumpeters Snooky Young and Thad Jones, trombonist Quentin Jackson, saxophonists Marshal Royal and Frank Wess, the eternal Freddie Green on guitar, and the amazing drummer Sonny Payne. The 11 tunes performed here (and reproduced with surprisingly crisp, clear audio and black & white visuals) include some Basie staples (like Green's "Corner Pocket" and Basie's own signature "One O'Clock Jump"), a few jazz classics ("I Got Rhythm," "Old Man River," "Stella by Starlight"), and three vocal numbers featuring Irene Reid. Every one of them is a delight, with superb arrangements highlighting the band's ensemble playing, masterful control of dynamics, excellent soloing, more than a few touches of humor
and, of course, that ineffable swing. Tough to pick a particular highlight, but Payne's lengthy solo spot on "Old Man River" might be it--not only is he a sensational drummer, spinning out rhythms as if they were melodies and never once losing the tempo, but the way he tosses and juggles his sticks is marvelously entertaining. A thorough and informative accompanying booklet more than makes up for the lack of bonus features. --Sam Graham