BASIE, Count: One O'Clock Jump (1936-1939) (Carl Smith/ Count Basie/ Count Basie Orchestra/ David Lennick/ Helen Humes/ Jimmy Rushing/ Jo Jones/ Lester Young/ Walter Page) (Naxos: 8.120662)
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COUNT BASIE "One OClock Jump"
Original Recordings 1936-1939
For more than forty-five years one of the leading American jazz and bigband-leaders, Count Basie was born William Bill Allen Basie in Red Bank, New Jersey, on 21 August, 1904. His formal musical education, if concise, was also well-nourished (an only child, he first studied piano with his mother and from a mysterious "wonderful German lady named Holloway") and any original inclination for drums was quickly dispelled once he had heard his boyhood friend Sonny Greer. In Harlem, young Bill Basie rubbed shoulders with the great originators of stride and it was there that he met James P. Johnson, Luckey Roberts and Willy The Lion Smith. He first heard his contemporary, Fats Waller (1904-1943), the greatest single influence on his piano style, on pipe-organ in the pit of the Lincoln Theater; and Waller it was who also became his music mentor and taught him the rudiments of the cinema organ.
In the early 1920s vaudeville was still providing regular work for Negro musicians and by the age of twenty Basie had already gained vast experience playing piano in shows on the Keith and TOBA circuits, even doubling as a bit-part actor in comedy sketches. In 1927 he was stranded in Kansas City with a touring group and stayed there working as a pianist in silent-film theatres until July 1928, when he joined bass-player Walter Pages Blue Devils, whose line-up included at least one other important future Basie protagonist in the Oklahoma-born vocalist Jimmy Rushing (1903-1972). During 1929, after leaving Page, Basie worked with other local bands before joining Bennie Moten (1894-1935) & His Kansas City Orchestra, as second pianist to Moten and his brother (or nephew?) Buster and made his first recordings with the band, in Chicago, in October of that year.
From about 1932 Moten systematically borrowed the key figures of Pages outfit and with a line-up which boasted, among others, Rushing, Walter Page, Hot Lips Page, Eddie Durham (the noted electric guitarist later an even more noted Basie arranger) and Ben Webster, his trend-setting style progressed steadily until his sudden death in April, 1935. Later that same year, after a hiatus of a few months, Basie formed his own band. A nine-piece incorporating a nucleus of former Moten players, based at Kansas Citys Reno Club it included Jo Jones and Lester Young in its ranks. Probably the most brilliant of its kind in the history of jazz, its rhythm section drew its impetus from the energising force of Basies distinctive keyboard style. With a quintet formed from members of the group, in October 1936, in Chicago, he recorded four sides for Vocalion, billed as Jones-Smith Incorporated (Tracks 1-4).
In 1931, while he was appearing with the Moten outfit at Covans, behind Harlems Lafayette Theater, Basie had been heard by recording executive John Hammond who had the following year been impressed by his first solo features with Moten in such recordings as "Prince of Wails" and "Moten Swing". Although soon to play a major part in the Counts career, Hammond had never actually seen or even heard the Basie band in action until December 1935, via his car radio, in a broadcast relayed from the Reno over W9XBY, an experimental Kansas City radio station:
"What I picked up from Kansas City was amazing. Basie had developed an extraordinary economy of style. With fewer notes he was saying all that Waller and Hines could say pianistically, using perfectly timed punctuation a chord, even a single note which could inspire a horn player to heights he had never reached before
Somewhere between 1932 and 1936 Basie had discovered how effective simplicity can be." (On Record)
Thereafter, Hammond tuned in to Kansas every night to hear Basie. He "spread the news of Basies band to everyone interested in jazz", sang its praises in Down Beat and Melody Maker and six months later even persuaded a major booking agency to promote "the best [outfit] I had ever heard." Armed with its own arrangements, the band was soon "outswinging Ellington" and through behind-the-scenes influence from the over-enthusiastic Hammond, Basie was soon offered a contract by ARC for its Brunswick label. He was, however, beaten to the signing by rival Decca who, as Hammond recalled, signed the Count on "miserable" terms, which "called for twenty-four sides a year for three years for $750 each year", with "no provision for royalties, so that for the period when Basie recorded One OClock Jump, Swingin The Blues and Jumpin At The Woodside and the rest of those classic hits, he earned nothing from record sales". Below the legal minimum scale demanded by the American Federation of Musicians for recording, it was also, he added "probably the most expensive blunder in Basies history
typical of some of the under-scale deals which record companies imposed on unsophisticated Negro and country artistes."
Notwithstanding this apparent setback, however, other opportunities were beckoning the Count and within a year, through radio, record sales and prestigious sojourns (at the Grand Terrace in Chicago as well as in New York and elsewhere) the Basie Orchestra had assumed its rightful niche as one of the leading big-bands of the Swing Era. In February 1938, Metronome was already giving some hint of the level the band had reached amid the strongest competition:
"Count Basie did it! For years, nobody was able to lick Chick Webb and his Chicks within the walls of his own Savoy Ballroom, but on January 16, notables such as Duke, Norvo, Bailey, Duchin, Krupa and Goodman
heard the Count gain a decision over the famed Chick
[his] solid swing to the heart triumphing over sensational blows to the head."
Peter Dempsey, 2003
Transfers & Production: David Lennick
Digital Noise Reduction: Graham Newton
Original 78s from the collections of David Lennick & John Wilby
The Naxos Historical labels aim to make available the greatest recordings of the history of recorded music, in the best and truest sound that contemporary technology can provide. To achieve this aim, Naxos has engaged a number of respected restorers who have the dedication, skill and experience to produce restorations that have set new standards in the field of historical recordings.
As a producer of CD reissues, David Lennicks work in this field grew directly from his own needs as a broadcaster specializing in vintage material and the need to make it listenable while being transmitted through equalizers, compressors and the inherent limitations of A.M. radio. Equally at home in classical, pop, jazz and nostalgia, Lennick describes himself as exercising as much control as possible on the final product, in conjunction with CEDAR noise reduction applied by Graham Newton in Toronto. As both broadcaster and re-issue producer, he relies on his own extensive collection as well as those made available to him by private collectors, the University of Toronto, Syracuse University and others.