The Count Basie Orchestra: review

I’ve unfortunately let my favourite post (Saturday Morning Swing) slip along the wayside, but I’m inspired to start it up again after seeing the amazing Count Basie Orchestra on their 80th anniversary tour on Saturday 16th May at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

The Count Basie Orchestra with Ethel Waters in 1943

The Count Basie Orchestra with Ethel Waters in 1943

An 18-piece big band, they are led by trumpeter Scotty Barnhart and were joined by guest vocalist Carmen Bradford. I like to think I listen to a lot of music, but I had no idea how tight a band could sound until I heard these guys live. So much energy, creativity and freedom of spirit.


Photo by CBO

They played a mix of songs, some of my favourites including All Of Me, I Got A Right To Sing The Blues, From One to Another and Corner Pocket.

Carmen Bradford dominated the vocals and was an excellent entertainer as well – joking with the audience and sashaying about in her fabulous sequinned gowns.

Carmen Bradford. Photo by CBO

Carmen Bradford. Photo by CBO

The musicians are all extremely accomplished in their own right, but the rhythm section (Bobby Floyd – piano, Will Matthews – guitar, Trevor Ware – bass, and Dave Gibson – drums) in particular blew me away. That’s no surprise really since Basie essentially revolutionised the rhythm section for big band music. Those four cats sure can swing! Bobby Floyd was particularly delightful on piano, especially in From One To Another. Here’s a clip of that song (with a slightly different lineup); I can’t embed it unfortunately!

Some standout solos for me included Cleave Guyton on the Piccolo (I don’t know that I’ve ever heard much jazz Piccolo before!), Michael Williams and Scotty Barnhart on trumpet, and Doug Lawrence on tenor sax.

I am so glad I bought tickets to this show because I think I would have regretted it so much if I hadn’t! It was something I didn’t realise I actually needed. When you do what you love for a living, it’s hard sometimes to remember that you do actually love it! I needed that reminder when it comes to jazz – yes, I do actually love listening to jazz and clearly need to do more of it every day.

The Count Basie Orchestra is touring all over the world, so if they are in your city do yourself a favour and see “The greatest big band working today” – it’s true.


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