In January of 1950, beleagured by the business woes that had afflicted so many other big bands around this time, Count Basie broke up the orchestra that he had been leading for 14 years. The small group that he formed in its wake featured younger, bop-oriented musicians such as tenor saxophonist Wardell Grey, baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff, and clarinetist Buddy DeFranco.
The band, which ranged in size from a sextet to an octet during its existence, recorded a handful of sides for Victor and Columbia and was also captured on airchecks.
We’ll hear collaborations with former Basie big-band singers Billie Holiday and Helen Humes, as well as a live version of the bop anthems “How High the Moon” and “Ornithology,” and some early writing contributions from Neal Hefti, who would play an important role in Basie’s “New Testament” big band later on in the 1950s.
Watch the Count Basie Octet in performance, with Clark Terry, Buddy Defranco, and Wardell Gray.