Personnel: Count Basie (piano); Frank Wess (arranger, alto saxophone, flute); Frank Foster (arranger, tenor saxophone); Thad Jones (arranger, trumpet); Ernie Wilkins (arranger); Marshal Royal (alto saxophone, clarinet); Billy Mitchell (tenor saxophone); Charles Fowlkes (baritone saxophone, bass clarinet); Snooky Young, Wendell Culley, Joe Newman (trumpet); Henry Coker,
Al Grey, Benny Powell (trombone); Freddie Green (guitar); Eddie Jones (bass);
Sonny Payne (drums).
Recorded at Universal Studios, Chicago, Illinois and Capitol Studios, New York, New York between March & December 1958.
Although it appeared at a time when Count Basie was enjoying respect from all quarters (as evidenced by the pop acclaim of several Grammy awards and the jazz faithful's enthusiasm for his concert at Newport), Chairman of the Board was, comparatively, a low-profile session. The record was surrounded in Basie's discography by several prize-winners and a parade of studio collaborations -- with vocalists Tony Bennett, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, and Billy Eckstine, plus arranger Neal Hefti. This 1958 date for Roulette was a rare chance for the orchestra to perform on its own, and listeners to hear how powerful the band could be when its concentration was undiverted. Of course, Basie's band already possessed three fine arrangers (Frank Foster, Thad Jones, and Frank Wess) and at least a dozen solo voices. Each of the ten songs on Chairman of the Board were originals by Foster, Jones, Wess, or Ernie Wilkins, all of them arranged by the composer. The record is admittedly heavy on the blues, but it's a brassy, powerful vision of the blues; Foster's "Blues in Hoss' Flat" and Wilkins' "Kansas City Shout" take the band back to its hometown, beginning with a subtle swing but ending with a raucous display of power from each section. The contributions by Jones and Wess provide a necessary complement to that forceful swing. Jones' "Speaking of Sounds" employs the woodwinds to provide color and texture, while Wess' "Segue in C" relies on bassist Eddie Jones and Basie's piano to lead the band while Wess himself takes several choruses on alto sax. A dynamic date, it shows the "new testament" edition of Basie's orchestra in top form. ~ John Bush