Joe Williams' debut as the featured vocalist in Count Basie's band was one of those landmark moments that even savvy observers don't fully appreciate when it occurs, then realize years later how momentous an event they witnessed. Williams brought a different presence to the great Basie orchestra than the one Jimmy Rushing provided; he couldn't shout like Rushing, but he was more effective on romantic and sentimental material, while he was almost as spectacular on surging blues, up-tempo wailers, and stomping standards. Basie's band maintained an incredible groove behind Williams, who moved from authoritative statements on "Every Day I Have the Blues" and "Please Send Me Someone to Love" to brisk workouts on "Roll 'Em Pete" and his definitive hit, "All Right, OK, You Win".
Producer Norman Granz occasionally got carried away with the quantity of his recording projects. In 1974 he recorded a full album teaming fellow pianists Count Basie and Oscar Peterson in a rhythm quintet; little did anyone realize that this then-unique matchup would eventually result in five albums. This first one, which finds Basie doubling on organ, is among the best. Peterson's virtuosic style somehow worked very well with Basie's sparse playing and these ten numbers really swing.
After Count Basie's death, his orchestra went through an expected period of turmoil, almost declaring bankruptcy and having a new short-term leader (the late trumpeter Thad Jones). By 1986 its fortunes had improved and under the leadership of tenor-saxophonist Frank Foster it has become the only "ghost" orchestra to still play viable music after the death of its leader. Long Live the Chief was recorded only weeks after Foster assumed command, but already his arrangements and leadership were giving fresh life to this great jazz institution. In addition to remakes of "April in Paris, " "Lil' Darlin', " "Corner Pocket" and "Shiny Stockings, " there was already some new material in the band's books…
This CD reissue dates from Thad Jones' single year of leadership of the Count Basie Orchestra before his health began to fail. Caterina Valente (best known as a pop singer) has a warm voice and sounds comfortable singing in a jazz-influenced middle-of-the-road style. There is little improvisation on the date and Thad Jones' arrangements leave surprisingly little space for solos; his only appearance on cornet is on "Solitude."
One of Basie's final albums, the very appealing title cut seems to sum up his career, a lightly swinging groove with a strong melody. Two small-group performances with guest Joe Pass on guitar and the tenor of Kenny Hing add variety to aparticularly strong set.