“Masters of American Music: Count Basie – Swingin’ the Blues” is
the third entry that I’ve seen in this series. As with the other DVDs
on Sarah Vaughan and Thelonious Monk, it was also informative
and a delight to watch. All three of these discs are approximately
56 minutes in length, and this series is turning out to be a real
“find” for me.
This DVD contained concise, yet thorough footage documenting
Count Basie’s career and numerous interviews with him, at various
stages. It featured a lot of performance footage from the late 1930’s,
during his ascent as a famous bandleader. Ample screen time was
also given to notable members from his band, such as Lester Young
and Buck Clayton.
Another nice feature of this 1992 documentary were interviews
with Jazz luminaries, such as Harry “Sweets” Edison, Illinois Jacquet,
and Jay McShann, all of whom shared their memories of working
with Basie (1904-1984). They all agreed that Count Basie could
swing like no other bandleader, and reiterated that they were
a precision ensemble. However, they also credited him with flexible
arrangements of the music, which allowed his star soloists to
“stretch out,” during a set.
Here, there is not only interview and performance footage of
Jazz/Blues icon, Joe Williams, but also early footage of Jimmy
Rushing. In various incarnations, Count Basie’s band
collaborated with Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett,
Sammy Davis, Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday, among
others. Some of the album covers from these collaborations
were also displayed.
When asked toward the end of his life how he’d like to be
remembered, Count Basie said “…two words: ‘nice guy.’” Based
upon everything that was revealed in this documentary, I
definitely got that impression.
This 2010 DVD release on the EuroArts label is a real gem.