1001 Albums 0009-0011

Published May 31, 2012

My continued journey through the albums featured in the book
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

0009 Count Basie: The Atomic Mr. Basie (1957)

If you like big band jazz, it doesn’t come much better than this. With all tunes written and arranged by Neal Hefti (also famous for his theme for the Batman TV series), this album is never less than brilliant. Some of the tracks, such as After Supper, make me feel like I’m walking the streets of New York City late at night, sometime in the late Fifties, which can only be a good thing. However, although I appreciate the music here, I don’t think it’s an album I would buy myself. To me, I guess it’s “mood music” rather than something I actively listen to.

A comment on the sleeve: To think there was a time when an atomic explosion was something that you’d use as a positive reference, in this case to signal the potency of the music. Times have certainly changed since then.

Verdict: Excellent, and I’m glad I’ve heard it, but not for my record collection.

0010 Thelonius Monk: Brilliant Corners (1957)

This is where jazz gets a little too convoluted for my tastes. I do understand that all the players here (including saxophonist Sonny Rollins, whom I know my father admired) are brilliant musicians, but although I guess the unorthodox structure of the music is meant to evoke a sense of “freedom”, I get a feeling of claustrophobia, like I’m being taken prisoner by the musicians – especially when they play drum solos and bass solos, something I feel, with very few exceptions, should be banned from all types of music.

Verdict: Not for me.

0011 Sabu: Palo Congo (1957)

Before recording this album, percussionist Louis “Sabu” Martinez had played with a variety of prominent jazz performers, and also with Latin American bands (he himself was born in New York City and moved to Sweden in 1967, where he died 12 years later). The 1001 Albums book describes Palo Congo as “[capturing] the fury of the Cuban rumba and son styles in a studio performance”. Fury is certainly the right word, for although I enjoy a good percussionist as much as the next man, I can’t see myself putting on this album for a quiet night in. I’m assuming this music had the same function (perhaps still has) as today’s techno music, in that it’s fairly repetitive and mainly meant for frenzied dancing.

Verdict: Great rhythms, but not enough tunes for my tastes.


Count Basie: The Atomic Mr. Basie.


Thelonius Monk: Brillant Corners.


Sabu: Palo Congo.