Miscellaneous Rumbles

Big Band Goodness


Just wanted to share this utube compilation of Count Basie,Duke Ellington, and Harry James's band from really good film of circa '65. Alot of famous players including Freddie Green that you can clearly see and hear. This was late in the day for swing, but these guys are at the top of their game, not a bunch of geezer geriatrics playing for grandma. Each band is totally different and amazing at what they do. Watching it makes you realize the importance of these bands as breeding cauldrons for the heavy's that followed in the bop era. Link


Thank God for big band swing!!! Personally, I have little use for bebop- especially in the later eras, it got too experimental for me ("different" does not automatically = "good"), but I can't imagine music history without swing!

Going to enjoy this! Thanks!


Thanks for this Opie. Basie and Ellington are two of my biggest heroes. I go with the view that Count Basie was the only piano player who could swing even when he wasn't playing anything -- and then you had Freddie Greene, master of swing rhythm guitar.


I just watched it again as I downloaded it. The artistry, and level of musicianship, whew ! Tighter than Dick's hatband, and a few of the sax solos blew the deck off my fragile mind ! The film really well captures that whole scene so well, the stories are all laid out in the faces of the players.


Oh yea, I also highly recommend listening through headphones, Basie's rhythm section is unbelievable, in the pocket don't do it justice. It's really interesting to see how the band is divided rhythm section one side, horns other side of drummer. And even as late as '65 there were still classy nightclubs around that still offered up a good meal,dancing and a show of this caliber. I need a time machine!


DANG! I thought the thread title was "Big Band Goddess" and I had high hopes.


Great post Opie! I love Big Band and Swing and the '40s station on my SiriusXM Satellite radio is the most listened to station.

I'm also downloading a on of stuff from that era on my iPod and play along....especially playing solos on electric guitar (mostly my Black Phoenix) during the horn solo parts.

There is loads of energy and pure mojo in that music that time will never take away......It's energizing!


Basie vs Ellington: (not that there's really any "vs" here...)

I think I've always preferred Basie, by a little. They were both fantastic gifted geniuses... but Basie was a more loose, jamming, raucous, bluesy thing... where Ellington took on the whole thing of being more precise like classical music/composition. Ellington was certainly more ground-breaking. Both were amazing. Both bands would have been amazing to be in. But in my soul, I think I would rather have been in Basie's band. Again- only by a little.

As much as I love Goodman, I would not liked to have been in his band- from what I understand, there was little improvisation allowed; he was a taskmaster. Perfection was his goal. Loose was not allowed. I have always wondered how Miller ran his band (was any improvisation allowed?), but I've never really found out.

You guys know about the Basie vs Ellington "battle royale"? Famous!


I've read several different accounts of that battle in 1936, and depending on who wrote the book, both sides "won". (the article I linked said Ellington did, but again, I've read different in other places, so...)


I kinda feel the same way. Basie by a hair. His band was so in the pocket, a swing version of Booker T&MG's . Ellington was the Mozart of jazz. My big surprise was James band in how modern they sounded for '64, almost R&R at times.


I kinda like these assessments and characterizations of the Ellington and Basie bands, and pretty much agree.

Basie remains one of a kind for effortless implication of full and sophisticated musical ideas with the minimum of notes and surface complexity. Yup, he swung between the notes, and his band took those cues.

For me - at least since I grew ears enough to hear beneath the superficial surface, the Miller bands have always sounded like Swing Lite. Like swing already Muzakked. The swing band most likely to use a drum machine.

Two bands that always lay me low are Benny Goodman's (late 30s) and Woody Herman's Thundering Herd (almost any era). Those bands were bursting at the seams with let-it-rip intensity and invention - and the bandleaders certainly had to have encouraged it.


I'll agree that Miller was the most "polished"... but he's who I grew up on (literally since I was born), and he was a huge part of the music of WWII (my dad fought in the Pacific Theatre), so he'll always be my "first". Nothing "lite" about the arrangements or musicianship tho... he was a genius, just as Goodman and Herman were.

Goodman and Herman are also my other 2 favorites. Miller, Goodman, Herman, Basie, Ellington (in no particular order)

Then we've got the jump blues guys, who I only discovered later in life... they swung (and jumped!) hard as well, such as my beloved Louis Jordan....


The Ellington band played UK shows in Manchester and Bristol as part of a tour to mark his 70th birthday. The Manchester concert is/was available on a double album/cd. He finishes off with a splendid, hilarious goodnight speech which acknowledges (very kindly) the general inability of UK audiences to clap along in the right place -- what he calls "the fingersnapping and earlobe tilting". Back then we just didn't know how to "groove". Sometimes I think we still don't. Absolutely priceless.


Ellington & Basie were great, but when I met Harry James, he wa an ass.


My Dad was in the Mighty 8th Air Force during WWII. Glenn Miller was required listening in our house. About the only Big Band I don't care for are Les and Larry Elgart---just because they tried to do rock n roll. It didn't work.

I got to do a show with Woody Herman's Thundering Herd. Loudest 18 unamplified guys I've ever heard, and I was behind glass in the lighting booth at the back of the theater. Henry Mancini was really cool---I had pizza and beer with him. Buddy Rich had enough attitude for a dozen people. I've never met anyone else so full of himself.

Every January, we'd do a statewide big band show with the top HS and uni bands in the state. There are always some seriously impressive musicians. 30 some bands, and workshops and a featured star on Saturday night. Lots of fun.


I think Kenton was the loudest. He had the most brass.


Ellington & Basie were great, but when I met Harry James, he wa an ass.

– Billy Zoom

Funny you said that. When I first watched it I thought "Oh yea, I know THAT guy. I think anyone growing up in the '60's knew that guy. He's the guy who made damn sure his kids hair length never touched his ears. Would have loved to bring back the chastity belt. Pretty much like 9/10th's of our fathers." Punk sh$t loud R&Roller with attitude, I'm surprised a lasting friendship didn't ensue


Two bands that always lay me low are Benny Goodman's (late 30s)...

I'm sure most people reading this thread have heard this, but it's always worth another listen. Especially the piano solo near the end.


I never saw Goodmn live.....bummer!


I saw The Count w/ Freddie Green about 1974-5...

I was working for a Catering Company, the event was a Black Business Leaders Dinner.


I grew up listening to Ellington and Basie - as well as Louis Armstrong, Django and Stefan, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Fats Waller, etc etc. But Ellington and Basie were always on in my house. And quite loud, too! My Dad would sometimes quiz me on songwriters as he was a huge fan of Berlin, Gershwin and Porter, amongst others. I always liked Gershwin, particularly when Billie Holiday sang.

But it really was the big bands who were the background music to my life until I left home. Dad played Goodman and Miller but preferred Basie and Ellington. Dad got to see Louis Armstrong a few times when he toured Australia. Now I have a son and his name is Louis - not really named after Armstrong but we don't mind if Dad thought he was.

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