Hailed upon its release as an instant classic, it’s not difficult to hear why from the opening bars of the title track. Count Basie’s April In Paris, whose title track also happens to be track one, side one, is big-band heaven and one of the great opening numbers on any album.
It was recorded in New York over three separate dates, the first in July 1955, followed by two back to back days on 4 and 5 January 1956 It was one of the earliest albums to be released on Norman Granz’s new label, Verve Records, that had been launched at Christmas 1955.
Listen to April In Paris right now.
The album oozes swing and helped reconnect jazz lovers with one of the finest bands of the swing era. Yet there is nothing retrospective in this album; it is alive with vitality, elegance, sophistication and modernity.
Count Basie plays organ and piano and the rhythm section of Eddie Jones on bass and Sonny Payne drive the whole album with restrained intensity. Tip of the hat to Freddie Green, the man who established the rhythm guitar as an important instrument in jazz and most other genres of music. He rarely took a solo, but added so much to so many recordings during his fifty years with Basie’s band. His sense of harmony and his ability to blend with his drummer created something unique and special.
The brass consisting of four trumpets, three trombones, two alto, two tenor and a baritone saxophone is superb on every cut, helping to make this one of the finest big band records of all time. The album’s title track was released by Clef Records in 1956 was a single and Down Beat said of it in their review, “Wild Bill Davis’ three-ending arrangement of ‘April’ is one of the most popular in Count’s book…But for want of being able to hear the band ‘live’ every night, this is a boon companion.”
According to Francis Drake in Atlantic Monthly, “Band rehearsals generally found Basie pencilling out everything in their scores he recognized as superfluous to the real matter at hand—that ineffable sensation jazz partisans call swing, practically a Basie patent.”
April In Paris can be bought here.