This two-CD set documents a pair of hour-long performances by the Count Basie big band that are quite complementary despite being recorded two years apart. No real surprises occur (the Basie Orchestra was nothing if not predictably swinging) but neither are there any low points. Most of the material was recorded elsewhere at least once during this productive period and the repertoire alternates Basie standards with dance music and blues. Singers O.C. Smith ("All Right, OK, You Win") and Irene Reid ("The Blues") only have one vocal apiece and fail to make much of an impression. With such soloists (who are unfortunately unidentified in the liner notes) as Thad Jones, Joe Newman, Al Grey, Quentin Jackson, Frank Wess, Frank Foster and Basie himself (among others), this is a well-recorded and enjoyable set that Basie fanatics and completists will want. ~ Scott Yanow
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- Guard Sessions 53-54/55-56 (Smith, Keely)