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Meets Count Basie

Battle Royal

Essential Jazz Classics EJC 55544



1. Battle Royal
2. To You
3. Take the "A" Train
4. Corner Pocket (aka Until I Met You)
5. Wild Man (aka Wild Man Moore)
6. Segue in C
7. B D B
8. Jumpin' at the Woodside
9. One More Once
10. Blues in Hoss' Flat (Blues In Frankie's Flat)

The Duke Ellington Orchestra (heard on the right channel)
Cat Anderson, Willie Cook, Ed Mullens, Fats Ford - Trumpets
Ray Nance - Trumpet, violin
Juan Tizol, Lawrence Brown, Louis Blackburn - Trombones
Jimmy Hamilton - Clarinet
Johnny Hodges, Russell Procope - Alto saxes
Paul Gonsalves - Tenor sax
Harry Carney - Baritone sax
Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn - Pianos
Aaron Bell - Bass
Sam Woodyard - Drums
The Count Basie Orchestra (heard on the left channel)
Thad Jones, Sonny Cohn, Snooky Young, Lonnie Johnson - Trumpets
Henry Coker, Quentin Jackson, Benny Powell - Trombones
Marshall Royal - Clarinet, alto sax
Frank Wess - Alto sax, tenor sax, flute
Frank Foster, Budd Johnson - Tenor saxes
Charlie Fowlkes - Baritone sax
Count Basie - Piano
Freddie Green - Guitar
Eddie Jones - Bass
Sonny Payne - Drums
11. Perdido
12. What Am I Here For?
13. I'm Beginning to See the Light
Track 11: Count Basie - Piano
Reunald Jones, Thad Jones, Wendell Culley, Joe Newman - Trumpets
Bill Hughes, Henry Coker, Benny Powell - Trombones
Marshall Royal - Clarinet, alto sax
Ernie Wilkins - Alto sax, tenor sax
Frank Wess, Frank Foster - Tenor saxes
Charlie Fowlkes - Baritone sax
Freddie Green - Guitar
Eddie Jones - Bass
Gus Johnson - Drums
Track 12: Same as 11 but Bill Graham (Alto sax) replaces Ernie Wilkins; Sonny Payne (Drums) replaces Gus Johnson
Track 13: Same as 12 but Joe Williams (Vocals) added
14. In a Mellow Tone
Count Basie - Piano
Thad Jones, SnookyYoung, Wendell Culley, Joe Newman - Trumpets
Henry Coker, Benny Powell, AI Grey - Trombones
Marshall Royal - Alto sax, clarinet
Frank Wess - Alto sax, tenor sax, flute,
Frank Foster, Billy Mitchell - Tenor saxes
Charlie Fowlkes - Baritone sax
Freddie Green - Guitar
Eddie Jones - Bass
Sonny Payne - Drums
15. One O'Clock Jump
Duke Ellington - Piano
Cat Anderson, Harold "Shorty" Baker, Clark Terry - Trumpets
Ray Nance - Trumpet, violin
Quentin Jackson, Britt Woodman, John Sanders - Trombones
Jimmy Hamilton - Clarinet, tenor sax
Bill Graham - Alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax
Russell Procope - Alto sax, clarinet
Paul Gonsalves - Tenor sax
Harry Carney - Baritone sax, clarinet, bass clarinet
Jimmy Woode - Bass
Sam Woodyard - Drums
16. Wild Man Moore (Paris Blues Version)
17. Battle Royal (Paris Blues Version)
Duke Ellington- Conductor
Louis Armstrong, Maurice Thomas, Roger Guerin, Jean Vaissat, Vincent Casino - Trumpets
Billy Byers, Nat Peck, Andre Paquinet, , Marcel Galiege - Trombones
Rene "Micky" Nicholas, Jo Hrasko - Alto saxes
Pierre Gossez - Tenor sax, alto sax
Georges Grenu, Marcel Wrasko - Tenor saxes
William Boucaya - Baritone sax
Jimmy Gourley - Guitar
Michel Gaudry - Bass
Gus Wallez, Moustache Galepides, Christian Garros - Drums


The phrase "Once in a lifetime" is sometimes used carelessly to accentuate the importance of an event. But it was truly a unique occasion when the orchestras of Duke Ellington and Count Basie got together in the studio to record together for the first (and last) time. The resulting album was released in 1961 with the title "Battle Royal". I have long treasured the album on LP and CD because, despite some tracks that don't succeed, most of the session is overwhelmingly exciting.

Recording around 30 musicians together was bound to have its problems and the sound is sometimes cluttered. For instance, the ending of Battle Royal is one of those occasions when everybody plays fortissimo, after Sonny Payne has showed up Sam Woodyard in a brief exchange of drum breaks. Yet the sheer volume that closes Battle Royal only emphasises the understated beauty of Thad Jones's arrangement of his own To You. Thad makes the most of the massive sections of brass and saxes, interweaving the harmonies into something very rich and rare. In my book, this is the best track on the album.

Count Basie refused to play a piano solo on Take the "A" Train (because it was Duke's signature tune), so Billy Strayhorn duets with Duke at the piano. There is a tasty exchange between the trumpets of Sonny Cohn and Ray Nance before Jimmy Hamilton and Budd Johnson swap eights and then fours. This sharing of duties is typical of the whole album, which is less a battle than a friendly interchange. The equality is underlined by Ellington and Basie supplying five tunes each from their respective band books.

The sharing is also present in Until I Met You (better known as Corner Pocket) - a Basie speciality but using two of the Duke's men - Willie Cook and Paul Gonsalves - as soloists. Like Battle Royal, Wild Man was written by Duke for the film Paris Blues and it makes a nice vehicle for several soloists to show their paces. It proves that both bands were not just masterly ensembles but that they contained first-class musicians capable of saying something in just one chorus.

Segue in C is a Frank Wess composition from the Count Basie bandbook. It starts with the Duke and the Count conversing cheekily on their pianos., and they continue commenting throughout the tune. Budd Johnson adds some low-down tenor choruses. This is the sort of relaxed swinging number that Basie's orchestra is famous for. The intensity grows gradually, using all the instruments to maximum effect.

B D B refers to Basie, Duke and Billy [Strayhorn]. It's another easy-going blues. Billy Strayhorn's arrangement makes the most of the ten saxophones. The original LP ended with Jumpin' at the Woodside, a Basie classic, which here features tenorists Frank Foster and Paul Gonsalves in increasing wildness.

This CD adds two extra tracks: One More Once and Blues in Hoss' Flat from the same session. The former has some twisting tenor sax above a shuffle rhythm; the latter also shuffles, with some swirling tenor from Paul Gonsalves. The latter track falls apart towards the end, which is probably why it wasn't on the original LP.

As a bonus, this reissue has added the Basie Band's interpretation of four Ellington numbers, plus Duke's version of One O'Clock Jump and the original versions of the two tracks from Paris Blues. The four Basie tracks show that Ellington created some ideal tunes for a big band to play and improvise on. Ernie Wilkins' arrangement of Perdido is rather heavy-footed but with some good flute from Frank Wess (uncredited as a flautist on the sleeve). Joe Williams' vocal on I'm Beginning To See The Light is below his usual standard, with some wobbly intonation.

The tracks from the Paris Blues soundtrack used a studio orchestra conducted by Duke and containing several Frenchmen. The recording quality of Wild Man Moore is rather flimsy but Battle Royal is better, with Louis Armstrong up to speed on both tracks. On my copy of the CD, track 17 sticks, so try to check before you buy. But you must buy this album if you haven't already got it, as the recording rendezvous of the Duke and the Count really was a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Tony Augarde

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