Weekend Extra: Jive At Five

Why? Because it’s been too long since you’ve heard it.

What, you’ve never heard it? Good. I envy your coming to it for the first time. Here’s Count Basie from The Complete Decca Recordings. February 4, 1939. Harry Edison wrote the tune. He has the trumpet solo. Jack Washington is the baritone saxophonist. We get Lester Young (pictured) twice. His eight bars following Edison’s solo launched a thousand tenor saxophonists.

Now, you’re bound to have a happy weekend.

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  1. says

    I love all those guys, but Pres sounds like he’s from another planet.

    I remember getting the Mosaic box set of Basie with Pres, and I kept having this feeling that listening to Lester Young among his contemporaries was like watching a lone gazelle romp among a flock of penguins. I had the same sensation hearing early Louis Armstrong–so limber, so free, so swinging, exuberant, humorous–almost shockingly so, among the comparative stiffness of his bandmates.

    No disrespect to the other cats intended (Sweets always sounds wonderful, too)…most of us, naturally, sound like products of our own times and surroundings, rather than like electrifying messengers from the future.

    I, too, envy the new listener’s joy of discovery in hearing this for the first time–but also I regret that it becomes more difficult to truly, viscerally appreciate the genius of a musician like Pres or Armstrong–or Bird or Trane, or Stravinsky–because their innovations have been so thoroughly assimilated into the mainstream…

    Maybe Herschel Evans and Buddy Tate are there to remind us of the state of the art for their time…we listen to them blow their half-chorus and we settle into their groove and concept…then, here comes Pres, and maybe just for a second, we feel that thrill–we catch a whiff of that new cool breeze that nobody had ever felt before, and up come the goosebumps…

  2. says

    That little phrase that Prez plays at the end of his first half-chorus of “Jive at Five” was used by John Carisi as the basis for his composition “Lestorian Mode.”

    David Evans puts it well about the messengers of the future. Al Cohn once said, “People don’t realize that it wasn’t just that Bird was better than everyone else. There was Bird, and then there was everyone else.”

  3. says

    Thanks for reintroducing “Jive At Five”. Another great Lester Young feature—I would call it a major opus—is “Taxi War Dance”.

    Lester Young’s “Slow Motion Blues” changed my life, and that of many, many others.

    Lee Konitz knows Pres’s most important solos by heart; I guess you could wake him up in the middle of the night, saying only “Lady Be Good” and he could immediately sing the whole solo.

  4. David says

    While I agree with all of the comments about Lester being “from another planet” etc., I’d also like to put in a word for Jack Washington who gets an entire eight bars on this. Although a key member of the band (Jo Jones said he was more important than the Count) and a highly respected soloist, Washington only rarely got an entire chorus on Basie’s recordings (“Topsy” being one of the best examples). Buck Clayton called Washington one of the three best baritonists in jazz (the others being Carney and Mulligan.) Those interested in hearing what Washington could do when he got a chance to stretch out should check out a 1958 recording called Basie Reunion issued on Prestige/OJC under Paul Quinichette’s name. Apart from Paul and Nat Pierce sitting in for Prez and the Count, the players were all members of the original classic Basie band: Clayton, Shad Collins, Washington, Freddie Green, Eddie Jones, Jo Jones. A very spirited session with everyone in fine form. (Buck gets in some especially tasty solos.)

  5. says

    To me, it’s the “voice” of Prez (like Louis, Bird, Trane) that still makes it seem as though he’s gliding over history and not subject to its mundane whims. Yes, Prez’s sense of time and more melodic, less arpeggio-based approach were very different from that of Hawkins and seem to presage “modernism.” But the expressiveness of his tone-so direct, so vulnerable-is , for me, why we continue to be so moved by his playing.