Liner Notes: Classic Columbia, Okeh, and Vocalion: Lester Young with Count Basie, 1936 to 1940
Basie, 1936 to 1940" - a four CD set of remastered recordings
Mosaic Records MD4-239
Liner Notes Author: Loren Schoenberg
[Editor's note about the photos in the liner note booklet: In a photo dated October 1939, Freddie is playing his sunburst Epiphone Emperor. He is playing his sunburst Stromberg Master 300 in a March 19, 1940 photo , and playing his blonde Stromberg Master 400 in a October 28, 1940. The year 1940 appears to be when Freddie moved from Epiphone to Stromberg.]
Not content to maintain one pattern throughout an entire performance, Walter Page taught Basie, and later guitarist Freddie Green, to think orchestrally and in terms of counterpoint.
With the addition of guitarist Freddie Green, this recording session (February 13, 1939) is the first time we encounter what was already known as the All-American Rhythm Section. Although this session still retains some aural challanges, their playing is a revelation. It was not merely piano, guitar, bass, and drums playing at the same time; it was actually one single breathing unit that arrived at a rhythmic unison rarely equaled in subsequent jazz and never surpassed.
The way that Basie, Green, Page, and Jones play seems anything but innovative today, given their tremendous influence over the past decades. In 1939 it was absolutely unique and made them the idol of their peers. All gears meshed to produce a perfect rhythmic concept that called for the complete subjugation of individual egos in order to create a metaphysical whole.
These superlative transfers bring out details in the rhythm section - Basie's left hand, the little strokes that Green added here and there, plus many more of Page's actual notes than were discernable before.
One can only imagine the thrill young Glenn Hardman must have felt being in the studio with these heavyweights, which may account for at least part of the reason he strains at the beat so ferociously. Green and Jones do a good job of keeping the reins tight.
As Lester Young enters, hear how Green and Jones ("boom" on the bass drum) set him up by sitting straight up on the beat, giving it a new solid bottom.
Jones gets another half-chorus, this time splitting it with Green who takes a rare chorded solo. [Editor's note: The recording is "Who?" from June 26, 1939. Freddie's chord solo lasts 13 seconds.]
The new source material used for this CD collection affords us, for the first time, the chance to hear subtle clicks and clacks that Jones used to alternate levels of intensity, sound, and dynamics as well as the the quiet contributions of Page, Green, and Basie.
The bridge of "Ham 'N' Eggs" is a perfect example of how this rhythm quartet breathed and thought as one, with Page being the root intelligence that undergirded the three whose tessituras lay above him.
Jones plays with great abandon leading up to the halfway point of Young's solo, creating a rhythmic counterpoint that bounces off the Page/Green quarter note against Young who leaves space for it to be heard.
Jones once said, "I learned to play the drums from Mr. Walter Page. He was musical father to me because without him I wouldn't know how to play the drums. For two years, Page taught me how to phrase..."
Except when soloing, Charlie Christian doubles up on rhythm with acoustic guitarist Green, and they never clash.
Benny Goodman starts the solo cycle, followed by Clayton, Young, and Basie, with Page in the driver's seat and all of Green's and Christian's string pulling in perfect time with his bass notes.