Jazz great William “Count” Basie comes back to life in this rich documentary, which traces the history of the pianist, composer, and bandleader over several decades. Filmmaker Gary Keys juxtaposes a roundtable discussion among old cats from the Count Basie Orchestra with recorded performances, including a cameo appearance in Blazing Saddles. Archival clips and a gallery of portraits and snapshots shows the ever-smiling face of a man as vivacious as the grooves he delivers—his good humor suffusing the music and the players going at it all around him, from Lester Young to Ella Fitzgerald.
As the former members of the iconic big band reminisce, the music backs up their anecdotes with its driving tempo and virtuoso improvisation. Jazz buffs will revel in the strains of old favorites, from “One O’Clock Jump” to Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child.”