For this 1961 performance in Belgium, Count Basie fronts his famous big band in a manner befitting his unofficial title. Indeed, by this stage in his career he was held in high reverence globally, and audiences in Europe would have seen him as a star. The orchestra played as part of the Jazz Pour Tous (jazz for all) emissions, which ran from 59’ to 69’, showcasing the best in international jazz talent at a time where the territory was shifting at breakneck pace.
In the decade and a half previous, the likes of Monk, Miles and Coltrane had torn apart the rule book in favor of the challenge of bebop and hardbop, as well as the light appeal of cool jazz. To them, Basie’s repertoire might have felt old-fashioned, but to audiences and casual listeners it represented pure class – a one-way portal to style and romance – and it is easy to see why. There is a richness in the textures, a swing to each note, and classic songs are reeled off one after the other. Soloists take precedence, and Basie attracted the best: Snooky Young is pristine on the trumpet, Freddie Green deploys delicate excellence on guitar and Sonny Payn is a showman till the end on drums.