Of all of the “ghost bands” that have survived their leader’s passing, the Count Basie Orchestra is the most successful. One of the few fulltime jazz orchestras around today, they have retained the classic Basie sound during the 40 years since Count’s death.
Basie Swings The Blues is a bit unusual although in ways it is a throwback to the 1960s and early ’70s. During that period, the Count Basie band often was used as an accompanist for a variety of singers on recordings including Sammy Davis Jr, Arthur Prysock, the Mills Brothers, Kay Starr, Jackie Wilson, and Bing Crosby with mixed results.
On Swings The Blues, the Basie Orchestra backs a large number of current blues performers. Mr. Sipp (one of the best around today) is featured on “Let’s Have A Good Time” and “Dirty Mississippi Blues.” Appearing once apiece are Bobby Rush, Charlton Johnson, Bettye Lavette, Robert Cray, Ledisi (quite credible on “Evil Gal Blues”), Jamie Davis, and Carmen Bradford. In addition, Keb’ Mo’ and Lauren Mitchell get to share “ Down Home Blues” and one number features Shemekia Copeland, Buddy Guy (on guitar) and harmonica great Charlie Musselwhite.
Each of the singers is excellent and the music is mostly classic 1950s-style blues. While there are occasional short solos (mostly from tenor-saxophonist Doug Lawrence), the Basie band is primarily in a supportive and often somewhat anonymous role. The one exception is the closing number and lone instrumental, “Rock Candy,” which has the orchestra being joined by organist Bobby Floyd and guitarist George Benson for a rollicking performance. While one wishes that the Count Basie Orchestra was featured much more on these blues numbers, the excellence of the guests and the consistently joyful feelings generated by the music serves as compensation.
Basie Swings The Blues