The only problem with compiling a list of five essential Count Basie albums is narrowing it down to that number. It’d be a lot easier to list his 10, 15 or 20 greatest recordings.

Nobody could swing like Basie, especially when playing Neal Hefti arrangements, and nobody, other than Duke Ellington, kept as many star soloists together at one time. And nobody but Basie could say as much on the piano with so few notes.

For almost five decades, the Count Basie Orchestra was on top of the heap, a position it richly deserved.

These five albums aren’t just essential to any good jazz collection… they are almost compulsory.