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Count Basie: Me and You

Basie’s own Me and You dates from 1983, the year before he died. Although his piannying is restrained, even a little delicate, this is still the New Testament Band in Prime Time (to quote Chris Sheridan). The first of three Ernie Wilkins arrangements, “Moten Swing,” opens lazily, deceptively, before building to a shouting climax. Eric Dixon’s tenor is heard to advantage on this, Chris Woods’ alto on the following “Right On” and “Me and You.” These two players show up, too, on three diversionary tracks by an octet, “Crisp,” “Bridge Work” and “She’s Funny That Way.” The last is a showcase for trombonist Booty Wood, who proves that melody phrased right is not something to be ashamed of.

Last, Sweets and Lockjaw ride out on their set with all the confidence that established them as major Basie alumni, their program consisting of “Feelings,” “My Ideal,” the blues originals. Despite the heavy proportion of blues, there is, as Benny Green explains in excellent notes, plenty of variety in the performances, in tempos and moods. Edison’s teasing repititions and muted tones contrast with Lockjaw’s brusque, slurred phrasing to create alternating tension and relaxation. They swing together effortlessly, too, because swinging had become second nature to them. Pianist Dolo Coker clearly knew bebop secrets, but he retains a strong, positive beat well-supplemented by Jimmie Smith’s sturdy, propulsive drumming. Altogether, a fine set of honest, unpretentious jazz.

Originally Published