by Stanley Dance ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 1, 1980
Another of Dance's tape-recorder books (The World of Duke Ellington, The World of Earl Hines)--with about three dozen interviewed musicians rambling this way and that, sometimes shedding light on the modest Count (real name Bill) from Kansas City and his quintessentially swinging band. Dance provides only a short introduction (""I am presuming that the reader brings some knowledge of Basic and his world"") and occasional, sporadic annotation: some of the interviewees get thumbnail bios, some don't; updating is hit-and-miss (a problem since so many of the interviews are 15-25 years old). And the line-up of speakers is something of a disappointment: the Count himself is virtually silent; premier vocalist Joe Williams (""Number One son"") has one of the shortest spiels; such occasional (but major) collaborators as Ella Fitzgerald are entirely absent; and heavy space is given to Jay McShann & Co. simply because their more progressive jazz also came from Kansas City (they were ""slightly influenced by Basle,"" says bassist Gene Ramey). Still, some recurrent themes do emerge from this ill-organized flood of names, dates, and anecdotes: the all-importance of the Basle rhythm section; the Count's increasing reluctance to play solos (various explanations offered); the sax rivalry of Lester Young and Herschel Evans; comparisons with Ellington; musings (some bitter) on the death of big bands, the decline of jazz. And though most of the sidemen are allowed to lapse into trivia (""I have my own darkroom and quite an expensive collection of cameras""), there's some earthy, funny eloquence about life on the road--and more than a little good, hard technical discussion (arrangements, instrumental technique). Some value as a source-book, then; otherwise--only for buffs willing to wade through the oral-history thickets.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1980
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1980
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