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.

cbo-bandphoto3

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: 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.