I like a band to have a name that gives the audience a clue to what genre they play, and unless you’ve never heard of the great bandleader Count Basie (and you’re in some way hoping for music based around the popular Sesame Street character) the album title gives a further clue that you’re going to step back into the swing time era of American music.
With an album entirely made up of classic covers made famous by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles and the aforementioned Basie, the music has got to be up to the task. These are some of the most iconic and famous songs from any era, songs that some hold dear (even one of myfavourite songs are here) so deviating too far from the original may turn off potential fans of the music.
But, the good news is no only does the music hold up, it’s recorded so sharply and with attention to the different areas of the band that everything is heard clearly – which is more than can be said for some of the original recordings, given that one of these songs is nearly a century old (1920’s ‘Amapola’, sung beautifully by Katie Birtill).
So you’ve got the usual guitar, bass, drums and piano providing the foundation to the music but with five brass players providing the razzle-dazzle this era is known for you’ve got a mini big band that produces a huge wall of sound underpinning the vocals that are mixed and matched between a further four singers.
Obviously this is an album for fans of swing music, it’s performed, recorded and packaged that way, but it’s also a nice introduction for people new to the genre, or fans of music that have decided to explore the music before Elvis Presley burst onto the scene and changed everything. This music is primarily music to dance to, a hybrid of jazz and orchestra music and, as dance music goes, it still holds up. Considering how music has changed through the generations, it’s a testament to the strength of musicianship and proves that people like the Duke and the Count knew what they were doing.