Count Basie & His Orchestra (featuring Al Grey): Makin' Whoopee

Frank Sinatra's 1966 live album Sinatra At The Sands with Count Basie is remembered as one of his finest. Highlights from Basie's opening set (sans Frank) were issued on a Telarc CD a few years back, but this performance was issued on the original Sinatra double LP. Thad Jones’ arrangement of "Makin' Whoopee" was written to feature Al Grey, one of the most prominent soloists in the Basie band of that time. Jones’ brilliant underscoring adroitly sets off Grey’s unsurpassed ability with the plunger mute. The band gets its moment to shine too, during the hard-swinging shout chorus.

But it's Grey's wailing plunger work on the out-chorus that steals the show. He lays so far back into the groove that it's impossible to tell where he's feeling the beat; nonetheless, his unmistakable roar cuts through. His virtuosic flourishes are capped by a brief cadenza where—perhaps just to show that he could—he pops out a high F. Wow. The breathtaking finish serves as a reminder of Grey's virtuosity and his importance to the fabric of the 1960s Count Basie sound.

August 31, 2009 · 0 comments


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