REVIEW POTPOURRI – Jazz musician: Count Basie; Composer: Ravel

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Count Basie

Prime Time
Pablo, CD, recorded January 18-20, 1977.

Count Basie

Jazz pianist/bandleader Count Basie (1904 -1984) appeared in the 1943 film, Stage Door Canteen, performing with singer Ethel Waters and his orchestra and doing a captivating solo turn. I say captivating because, whenever his short , stubby fingers touched a key, he drew out a most delectable note while sustaining the happiest smile. This enjoyment quickly spread to band members and audiences alike.

His best qualities, ones that were sustained in a huge legacy of recordings and concerts throughout a more than 60-year career, were an infectious rhythmic beat, an enthusiastic team spirit and a long list of talented, inspired singers and instrumentalists- vocalists Jimmy Rushing, Big Joe Turner, Joe Williams, Helen Humes, and Thelma Carpenter; saxist Lester Young; guitarist Freddie Green; and Buck Clayton and Harry Sweets Edison on trumpet.

The above CD, a typically good one, contains eight selections, including such staples as Sweet Georgia Brown and Ja-Da.

In 1970, Basie collaborated with Frank Sinatra at a pair of benefit concerts. The singer would later comment: “I have a funny feeling that those two nights could have been my finest hour, really. It went so well; it was so thrilling and exciting.”

The pianist was honored at the 1981 Kennedy Center Awards program.

Count Basie succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 1984 at the age of 79.


Orchestral Works
Andre Cluytens conducting the Paris Conservatory Orchestra; French Columbia, 2 LP set, recorded 1962-63.

Maurice Ravel

André Cluytens

As much as I cherish other gifted interpreters of Debussy and Ravel – examples being Monteux, Munch, Ansermet, Boulez, Abbado etc., – I return to Andre Cluytens (1905 -1967) most often. He conducted both composers with consistent elegance, power, beauty, clarity. And his meticulously prepared interpretations weren’t just bestowed on the French school. The Berlin Philharmonic Beethoven 9 Symphonies are now routinely considered among the top three or four sets, his collaboration with David Oistrakh in the same composer’s Violin Concerto is quite splendid and a set of Moussorgsky’s Boris Godunov with Christoff is a justified cornerstone among great recordings of Russian opera. Two personal, less mentioned favorites are a live Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto with Rubinstein and an exquisitely shaped Schumann Rhenish Symphony.

The above collection consists of the Mother Goose ballet, Valse Nobles et Sentimentales, Tombeau de Couperin, Menuet Antique, Alborada del Gracioso, Barque sue L’Ocean, and Pavane for a Dead Princess. Each piece is an inexhaustible masterwork, masterfully performed. And these recordings are available via several different CD editions.


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