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.

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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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Saturday Morning Swing: Duets!

Good morning everyone! Today I’m feeling romantic…maybe it’s because Mr Eclipse and I are going on our honeymoon this week! Yay! But, on to the music. These tracks are not necessarily romantic but they are some of my favourite duets!

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers – Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off (1937)

I can’t think of duets without thinking of Fred and Ginger! Although this doesn’t make me want to swing out, I love the wordplay between these two and who can pass up rollerskating tap dancing!

Bing Cosby and Louis Armstrong – Now You Has Jazz (1956)

This is one of my favourite clips. A real pleasure to watch as well as listen to! I like how the musicians are showcased and how it explains the ways the instruments come together to form jazzzzzzzz!

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – Oops (1956)

Ok, so maybe we’re getting a little romantic now. This is my favourite duet because it’s just so darn cute, and it was also the song we used for our wedding dance….nawwww. Ella and Louis, just perfection ❤

Thanks for listening! If you’d like to listen to these in a playlist, you can here.

Last night I sang in front of people and I didn’t die

I have this crazy anxiety about singing in front of other people. I don’t know why – I enjoyed singing as a kid and was in my primary school choir, but I also have memories of feeling like I wasn’t very good and feeling ashamed of that. I think I stopped singing fairly early on. Up until recently I couldn’t even bring myself to sing in front of my husband – not without putting on a funny voice and making a joke out of it.

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Ella Fitzgerald – one of my favourite vocalists.

When we were writing The Gin Sisters the plan was to have a couple of songs in there, and I was going to do a song by myself. The idea terrified me but I was determined to give it a go and get over my fear. The first time I tried to sing in front of our director I was a mess – as soon as I stood up the anxiety washed over me and I could barely get anything out. The next few times I got a bit better, but my voice was still shaky and I was so nervous that we pulled it from the show. I was bitterly disappointed in myself and angry that I was letting my own self-doubt get in the way of my goals. I put it away for months while we focused on the rest of the show, and said to myself “well that’s just one skill you can’t do”. I beat myself up so badly over it – ridiculous right? I stopped practicing and became shy about singing at home again.

I played my uke in The Gin Sisters but didn't sing!

I played my uke in The Gin Sisters but didn’t sing!

We did two runs of the show – Perth Fringe World and Adelaide Fringe, and I tried to see as many shows as possible. I’ve been so inspired by the work I’ve seen that I decided it was time to step out of my comfort zone even further than I had with The Gin Sisters (where I still have my partner in crime Sapphire to rescue me when I forget my lines!) and do a one woman show, which I am writing at the moment and will be performing in the Cabaret Fringe Festival in June. In that vein, I have been trying to do new and scary things and so I decided that I would try singing a little song in our amateur night, Bloomers.

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Some of the gals performing in Bloomers with Sapphire – some for the very first time!

One of my biggest problems is that if I don’t start in the right place, I can be singing way out of tune but not know how to get back in tune. Sometimes when I hear notes next to each other I can’t tell which one is higher or lower, and I also struggle to tell when I am doing it right. The fear of being out of tune really puts me off. So, to get over that, I sang accompanied by two egg shakers (skilfully manned by audience members), so I wouldn’t have to stress about being in tune with anything except myself. I didn’t tell anyone I was going to do it so I could back down shame free, but I also didn’t bring a plan B which meant I pretty much had to do it.

You know what, I was ok. My voice didn’t break, I think I hit the right places and my words didn’t come out muffled. I’m not going to be doing musicals any time soon, but I did it. And I’m really proud of myself. It was just a silly little song that lasted all of a minute, but it’s a wall I’ve been running into for years, and it feels great to have broken through a little, and I’m interested to see what’s on the other side.

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Saturday Morning Swing: It wouldn’t be make believe….

I’ve had a song stuck in my head for what feels like a week now, but that’s ok because it’s one of my favourites! So cute and sweet.

Ella Fitzgerald & The Delta Rhythm Boys – It’s Only A Paper Moon (1945)

We’ll open this morning with my favourite version of this song. Although it’s a bit cheesy, I adore the barber-shop backing to this track! I love shuffling around the dance floor to this with my sweetheart 😉

The Manhattan Jazz Orchestra: It’s Only A Paper Moon

This rendition is almost a little too “jazzy” for me, but by the end of the trombone section I am all over this with some head bobbing and toe tapping.

Django Reinhardt – It’s Only A Paper Moon (1949)

Let’s take a wander over to some strings! This song makes me want to do some balboa or run around in circles waving my arms. Either way I’m having fun.

If you want to listen to these in a playlist you can here.

Saturday Morning Swing: Bye and Bye

It’s almost the end of Fringe….usually I start to feel pretty forlorn around this time of year because a bunch of rad friends and artists who have been living in Adelaide for a month leave (and two friends have left Australia for good!). No! Maybe I just need to tour more next year so I can see them more often 🙂

So, I dedicate this edition of Saturday Morning Swing to them….till next time!

Fats Waller – Bye Bye Baby (1936)

Yep, I’m opening with Fats Waller again. I can’t help it! I am absolutely in love with Fats. Silly and cheeky with a cruise feeling but a janky rhythm. Yassss yassss. The kazoo in this kills me! So good.

Rosemary Clooney & Duke Ellington – I’m Checkin’ Out Go’om Bye (1956)

Let’s head over to the Big Band era for a while. If this doesn’t get you going on a Saturday morning I can’t help ya! The only thing I don’t like about this track is the fade out….boo fade out! Some of the older scratchier versions have a proper ending but this all I could find on the tubes.

Kermit Ruffins – Bye and Bye (2005)

This song has long been one of my favourites, and it’s the perfect one to end on. That build of energy makes my heart sing and my feet want to dance! Get up and have a boogie!

BONUS TRACK – Ok it’s not swing, but it has to be included.

Saturday Morning Swing: Mellow tones

Today my Saturday morning is quiet, a bit chilly and I’m feeling a bit tired so today’s swing tunes are my favourite cruisy and casual songs.

Fats Waller – Honey Hush (1939)

This is one of my favourite songs of all time. So sweet and romantic. The rhythm section in this song is so lazy and shuffly, and the lilting of the brass and piano is just perfection.

Louis Armstrong and The Sy Oliver Orchestra – A Kiss To Build A Dream On (1951)

What I love so much about this track is how the song takes you on a journey. Everything feels so lovely and mellow, and then that trumpet kicks it up lifting you up and then we float back down on the piano….ugh, it just feels so nice!

Count Basie Orchestra – In a Mellow Tone (2009)

I thought I’d leave you with something that’s still cruisy enough for a Saturday morning but with enough pep and energy to get you ready for the weekend! I really dig the alto and the bass in this track. Happy Saturday!

Got any favourite mellow and casual swing tracks you want to share with me? I’d love to hear ’em! 

You can listen to these and all Saturday Morning Swing tunes in a playlist here.