Jeff K wrote:One of the albums which intrigues me the most is Count Basie's Atomic!. What makes it so special aside from the music, that is? I must confess to having never heard of it before.
What makes this a great Basie album is the presence of Neal Hefti. Most people know him best for his soundtrack compositions (he wrote the Batman theme and the music for The Odd Couple movie and TV show), but earlier he was one of the great songwriter/ arrangers of jazz, working first with Woody Herman and then with Basie.
The tracks on Atomic are mostly written and all arranged by Hefti. Basie loved the sound of the music, which was more of an ensemble-based "show band" sound, and worked with Hefti for years.
There are some Basie records that I actually think are better, but they're all compilations or collections. I think Atomic (which was originally titled E=MC²=Count Basie Orchestra+Neal Hefti Arrangements) is his best "stand alone" album.