THE COUNT BASIE ORCHESTRA :
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 over 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, today directed by Scotty Barnhart, 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 major concert hall in the world.
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 band mates 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 15-20 years: Trombonists David Keim (formerly w/Stan Kenton), Alvin Walker and Mark Williams, guitarist Will Matthews, baritone saxophonist Jay Branford, trumpeters Endre Rice, Kris Johnson and Alphonso Horne, saxophonists Marshall McDonald (formerly w/Lionel Hampton, Paquito D’Rivera’s United Nations Jazz Orchestra), Doug Lawrence (formerly w/Benny Goodman, Buck Clayton), and Cleave Guyton (formerly w/Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington Orchestra), alternating pianists Bobby Floyd and Reginald Thomas, bassist Trevor Ware, and the youngest member at 22 years old, Ray Nelson II on drums.
DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER:
Over the course of a multifaceted career spanning four decades, Grammy and Tony Award-winning jazz giant DEE DEE BRIDGEWATER has ascended to the upper echelon of vocalists, putting her unique spin on standards, as well as taking intrepid leaps of faith in re-envisioning jazz classics. Ever the fearless voyager, explorer, pioneer and keeper of tradition, the three-time Grammy-winner recently won the 2011 GRAMMY® for Best Jazz Vocal Album for ELEANORA FAGAN (1915-1959): TO BILLIE WITH LOVE FROM DEE DEE. Bridgewater's career has always bridged musical genres. She earned her first professional experience as a member of the legendary Thad Jones/Mel Louis Big Band, and throughout the 70's she performed with such jazz notables as Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon and Dizzy Gillespie. After a foray into the pop world during the 1980s, she relocated to Paris and began to turn her attention back to jazz. Signing with the Universal Music Group as a producer (Bridgewater produces all of her CDs), Bridgewater released a series of critically acclaimed titles beginning with Keeping Tradition in 1993. All but one, including her wildly successful double GRAMMY® Award-winning tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, Dear Ella - have received GRAMMY® nominations.
Bridgewater also pursued a parallel career in musical theater, winning a Tony Award for her role as "Glinda" in The Wiz in 1975. Her other theatrical credits include Sophisticated Ladies, Black Ballad, Carmen, Cabaret and the West End Production of Lady Day, for which Bridgewater received the British Laurence Olivier Nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. She is currently starring in the lead role as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at the Little Schubert Theater in New York City.
As a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Bridgewater continues to appeal for international solidarity to finance global grassroots projects in the fight against world hunger. She is also in her 11th year of hosting NPR's award-winning weekly syndicated show, JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater (WBGO).