Jazz fans who discovered Count Basie and Joe Williams in the decades that followed Basie's association with Roulette between 1958 and 1962 have been frustrated with the limited availability of many of these recordings in the era of the compact disc. This 1960 LP features Joe Williams with Count Basie & His Orchestra singing a mostly blues set with one exception, the torch song "Trav'lin' Light." The chemistry between the band and the singer is impeccable, as always, with Basie's economical piano adding just the right touch when needed, and Williams is in great voice, though some unnecessary reverb added at the date proves to be distracting. A remake of the band's earlier version of Walter Brown's hit (co-written with Jay McShann) "Confessin' the Blues" is swinging, while Al Grey's growling trombone sets the stage for Williams in Leroy Carr's "Night Time Is the Right Time." There are misfires, including an overdone "Keep Your Hand on Your Heart," while Williams seems to bog down "Mean Mistreater" after a promising instrumental introduction. But the vocalist more than makes up for any shortcomings with a perky original blues he brought to the session, "Lyin' Woman." Although this music was reissued as a part of The Complete Roulette Studio Recordings of Count Basie & His Orchestra, the sellout of that limited-edition set will make it tougher to find this rewarding music until the album is reissued separately on its own CD. ~ Ken Dryden
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- Guard Sessions 53-54/55-56 (Smith, Keely)