In the history of Jazz music, there is only one bandleader that has the distinction of having his orchestra still performing sold out concerts all over the world, with members personally chosen by him, for nearly 30 years after his passing. Pianist and bandleader William James “Count” Basie was and still is an American institution that personifies the grandeur and excellence of Jazz. The Count Basie Orchestra has won every respected jazz poll in the world at least once, won 18 Grammy Awards, performed for Kings, Queens, and other world Royalty, appeared in several movies, television shows, at every major jazz festival and concert hall in the world. Some of the greatest soloists, composers, arrangers, and vocalists in jazz history such as Lester Young, Billie Holiday, Frank Foster, Thad Jones, Sonny Payne, Freddie Green, Snooky Young, Frank Wess, and Joe Williams, became international stars once they began working with the legendary Count Basie Orchestra. This great 18 member orchestra, today directed by Scotty Barnhart, is still continuing the excellent history started by Basie of stomping and shouting the blues, as well as refining those musical particulars that allow for the deepest and most moving of swing.
|The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra
William “Count” Basie was born in Red Bank, New Jersey in 1904. He began his early playing days by working as a silent movie pianist and organist and by eventually working with the Theater Owners Booking Agency (TOBA) circuit. It is also sometimes referred to as the “chitlin’ circuit” that catered primarily to the African-American communities in the South, East, and Mid-West. In 1927, Basie, then touring with Gonzelle White and the Big Jazz Jamboree, found himself stranded in Kansas City, Missouri. It was here that he would begin to explore his deep love of the Blues, and meet his future bandmates including bassist Walter Page.
Since Basie’s passing in 1984, Thad Jones, Frank Foster, Grover Mitchell, Bill Hughes, Dennis Mackrel, and now Scotty Barnhart, have led the Count Basie Orchestra and maintained it as one of the elite performing organizations in Jazz.
Current members include musicians hired by Basie himself: Carmen Bradford (joined in 1983), Clarence Banks (joined in 1984), as well as Mike Williams (1987, formerly w/Glenn Miller, NTSU 1 O’Clock), Doug Miller (1989, formerly w/Lionel Hampton), and members who have joined in the last 15 years: David Keim (formerly w/Stan Kenton), Alvin Walker, Will Matthews, Marshall McDonald (formerly w/Lionel Hampton, Paquito D’Rivera’s United Nations Jazz Orchestra), Doug Lawrence (formerly w/Benny Goodman, Buck Clayton), Cleave Guyton (formerly w/Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington Orchestra), and our newest members: Mark Williams (Howard University), Bruce Harris, Jay Branford, Bobby Floyd and Marcus McLaurine (formerly w/Clark Terry)