Kansas City Five (featuring Count Basie & Lester Young): Don't Be That Way

John Hammond, that extraordinary jazz entrepreneur, record producer, and scion of the Vanderbilt family organized and hosted the historic “From Spirituals to Swing” concert at Carnegie Hall in late ’38. It celebrated the music of African-Americans and presented it in America’s premier concert hall. And if you’re presenting swing to the world, who better to have than Basie and the boys?!

After a couple of full band tunes, some songs were played by small groups from the Basie band; this was one of them. The track has distinctive opening bars in which on this special occasion, Count Basie plays more 'up front' than usual, with perhaps more power and dynamics. Lester Young (“Prez”) offers interjections and accents with his inimitable tenor sax tone. The Count and Prez continue at the forefront, doing a kind of piano-sax dance that excellently articulates the body of the tune’s music. A little past mid-way, Buck Clayton takes the lead on muted trumpet, at first in mid-range, using the mute for subtle effects, with a fine syncopated rhythmic feel. Then he soars higher and more dramatically to complete a very nicely constructed solo. Prez then takes the hand-off, blowing his sax in a more robust, deep-toned manner than usual (more like Coleman Hawkins), after a few bars transitioning back into a dual lead with Basie to end the song.

A live recording in 1938 was an iffy project, so the recording quality isn’t perfect; but for that time, it is more than well done. And it is a treat to hear Basie, Young, Clayton & co. playing live in that historic concert. Also, it’s an interesting tune that is a bit different than usual fare for Basie and the boys.

April 15, 2009 · 0 comments


Erroll Garner: Don't Be That Way

People often marveled at how well he played, considering that he couldn’t read music. To which Erroll Garner pointed out, “Nobody can hear you read.” Garner's unique style was instantly identifiable, with right hand rippling tremolos or jabbing single-note runs over a steady left-hand 4-beat pulse. "Don't Be That Way" deliciously samples his smorgasbord of sources from Willie the Lion Smith to Fats Waller to Chico Marx. When, 18 years after his death, the USPS issued a 32¢ commemorative stamp bearing his smiling likeness, it was fitting. Erroll Garner is a national treasure whose stamp on jazz piano remains indelible.

October 29, 2007 · 0 comments


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