Count Basie often said one thing whenever he was asked to characterize his music: "I lke to do things where you can halfway pat your foot."
In this tribute to Basie, Gene Harris has been faithful to that priority. In all respects, it should be noted, this is not an attempt to imitate Basie. Imitation is no tribute. In the charts (all of them new), in the sidemen's solos; and Gene Harris' piano choruses, the aim is to celebrate the spirit of Count Basie.
Harris, who was renowned for leading the Four Sounds and then the Three Sounds, was more expansive in style than Basie. But he shared with Basie a loving respect for the blues, and indeed interweaves here the colors of the blues in much of what he plays.
Basie was once asked to describe the foundation of his music. Reluctantly, but accurately, he put it all into a few words: "The blues. We play a lot of blues. To me the blues is the start of an awful lot of things." So here, the tunes reverberate with the ceaselessly evocative testimonies of the blues. There are quintessential blues, and songs that couldn't come fully alive without the blues.
Essential, of course, to the Basie way of music were soloists who could strut but also be as tender as April rain. He needed, and found, players who had lots of real-life stories to tell and hadn't blocked out the feelings that come with memory and desire.
The soloists in this set -- from Plas Johnson and jon Faddis to Ray Brown, Conte Candoli and Bill Watrous -- speak with crisp, exultant authority. And that's what Basie liked to hear.
Basie always knew that the aim of this music was to make people feel good. Played right, the blues can make you feel good. And music ought to make you move, even when you're sitting down. That's what happens here.