I was thrilled when this album came in the mail today. “Count Basie – Kansas 6” showcases how well these six outstanding musicians – all renowned capacities in their own right – engage in a breathtaking interplay, or as much more eloquently described in the liner notes below, an ‘amusing exchange’.
I love the sound of this album, especially Joe’s guitar has massive sustain and his tone is sharp and precise as always. I admit, I am partisan and biased – I am most intrigued when Joe plays his guitar unaccompanied, but boy, there is something to be said when a group of musicians get into the groove and ‘let it swing’.
But ultimately anything I say in this context is irrelevant. Unlike Norman Granz’s liner remarks, which are as usual, spot on and couldn’t more eloquently describe how this session all came about. Enough said, here are the producer’s notes:
This is the second in the series of Count Basie’s small group recordings under the general title of ‘Kansas City’, where Basie began his career seriously and, as he is quick to admit, learned to play the blues.
This release differs from, among other things, Kansas City 5, (Pablo Today #23-12-126) in that it has a vocal track by Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. And it has the nonpareil bassist Niels Henning Orsted-Petersen (better known for his contributions to many Oscar Peterson albums, and as half of the duo “Chops” albums done with Joe Pass: “Chops”, (Pablo #2310-830), and “Northsea Nights” (Pablo Live #2308-221), playing for the first time in the studio session with Basie, Joe Pass and Lewis Bellson are holdovers from “Kansas City 5” .
I recorded this album in Las Vegas last November with Basie was appearing with this orchestra which gave me the opportunity to use his marvelous trumpet star, formally with Duke Ellington, Willie Cook, who on some selections sounded uncannily like Louis Armstrong.
An amusing exchange, which describes concisely what this album and Count Basie are about, took place before the session and illustrates bases insistence on the blues being reduced as much as possible to its simplest essential form. “Cleanhead”, although an outstanding blues singer, is also, as musicians know, a great altoist and product of the Charlie Parker – Dizzy Gillespie Bop influenced era. As Basie noddled at the piano before the first take, Vinson launched into an explosive Bird-like solo whereupon Basie said: “Was that the blues? You sounded like you were coming from Stan Kenton.” To which Vinson replied: “I thought that was the Blues” and Basie, with finality, “Come back home man, you know the blues, and you know what I mean.”
And as you can here in this album, Vinson and the others played exactly as Basie meant.
Count Basie – Kansas City 6 Track listing:
“Opus Six” (Count Basie) – 6:29
“Vegas Drag” – 6:14
“Scooter” – 4:36
“Wee Baby Blues” (Pete Johnson, Big Joe Turner) – 5:33
“Blues for Little Jazz” – 4:58
“St. Louis Blues” (W. C. Handy) – 4:59
“Walking the Blues” (Champion Jack Dupree, Teddy McRae) – 4:48
“N.H.O.P.” – 7:05
Count Basie – piano
Eddie Vinson – alto saxophone
Willie Cook – trumpet
Joe Pass – guitar
Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen – double bass
Louie Bellson – drums