America’s #1 Band: The Columbia Years


Count Basie recorded four tracks for OKeh before signing with Decca, where he laid down dozens of classic tracks between 1937 and 1939. During World War II, there was no recording going on at all, but when things picked up again, he was ready to go to work for his new label, Columbia. This four-CD set gathers those early recordings, and material from afterward all the way up to the late 1950s; there’s even a full disc of live recordings, some often bootlegged but never officially released, and never sounding as good as they do here. Players came and went, but the band always had a strong collective identity, rougher and less lush than Duke Ellington’s but addictive. Every one of the 90 tracks here jumps, swings, and will make you bounce in your chair.

Phil Freeman

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