Picks and Pans Review: Kansas City Style
To hear Count Basie play piano with his own band inspires one to wonder what Shakespeare would have sounded like if he had only used one-word sentences. Basie was eloquent in that context; it was as if he, out of a justified respect for the talents of the musicians he gathered around him, didn't want to impose on them. It's still fun to hear him in this album of tunes cut in 1929, 1930 and 1932 with the Kansas City band of composer Bennie Moten. There are echoes of Fats Waller, Earl Hines and even a little Gershwin in the then-Bill Basie solos. The Moten band had to play its way through some primitive swing era arrangements, but the talent included saxophonist Ben Webster, bassist Walter Page, trumpeter Oran "Hots Lips" Page (no relation) and that epitome of the blues singers, Jimmy Rushing. Basie's piano playing sounds loose and bright. He even sings a scat vocal on Somebody Stole My Gal from the 1930 date. The Count formed his own band in 1935 and remained one of the major forces in jazz until his death last year. (RCA)
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