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Count Basie Centennial Featuring Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra

- Jazz and Cabaret Reviews

Count Basie Centennial
Featuring Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra

Wynton Marsalis, Music Director
Wynton Marsalis, Trumpet
Seneca Black, Trumpet
Ryan Kisor, Trumpet
Marcus Printup, Trumpet
Ron Westray, Trombone
Andre Hayward, Trombone
Vincent R. Gardner, Trombone
Wess "Warmdaddy" Anderson, Alto and Soprano Sax
Ted Nash, Alto Sax, Clarinet, Flute, Piccolo
Walter Blanding, Jr., Tenor Sax
Victor Goines, Tenor and Soprano Sax, Clarinet
Joe Temperley, Baritone and Soprano Sax, Clarinet
Eric Lewis, Piano
Carlos Henriquez, Bass
Herlin Riley, Drums
Special Guests: Carmen Bradford, Vocals
Frank Wess, Tenor Sax, Flute

Host: Phil Schaap

Naeemah Hicks, Press

At Alice Tully Hall
Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 29, 2004

Count Basie, jazz orchestra leader and pianist, was born William James Basie in Red Bank New Jersey in 1904. Thus, the Count Basie Centennial. After leaving school before ninth grade, Basie played piano in Asbury Park. He soon played piano in Harlem, during the years of Fats Waller, who coached Basie on the organ. In 1926 he left for a national tour, and, in 1927, while in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Basie heard a dance band and decided to focus on jazz. In 1935, he became leader of a jazz group in Kansas City, and later appeared on radio shows and in Clubs, including Famous Door. By 1936 Basie had formed a 13 piece jazz band, and from 1935 to 1949 key sidemen included Lester Young, Buck Clayton, Illinois Jacquet, and Jimmy Rushing.

During World War II, Basie's band played in Clubs, as well as rallies, troop shows, and military broadcasts. Basie lost several musicians to selective service, and he began to lose bookings in 1950. But, after disbanding, he formed a second band from a new sextet, and that band lasted 33 years. Basie played for the Queen of England and President Kennedy. Members of this second band included Benny Powell on trombone, Thad Jones on trumpet, Freddie Green on guitar, and Frank Wess on reeds. Basie received Kennedy Center Honors in 1981, as he was the bandleader who made blues and pop music swing. Even Basie's concert music was in dance rhythm. (JALC Notes).

If you're running a Jazz event, then definitely ask Phil Schaap to be host and raconteur. He's a wealth of Jazz history and anecdotes, a warm, humorous presence, and very dynamic. But, the real star of this show was present in mind and sound. Count Basie was the man of the hour, and this was a Centennial celebration of his life, work, and friends. Jazz at Lincoln Center, led by the amiable and superbly talented Wynton Marsalis, was onstage at Tully Hall with special guests, Carmen Bradford, a commanding presence in black and white faux fur, and Frank Wess, the 82 year young saxophonist and flutist, who pumped up the orchestra, prior to his accompaniments, with hand rhythms.

The songs were energetic, danceable (but this was Lincoln Center, indoors), and sing-able, such as "920 Special", "Jumpin' in the Woodside", "Lil' Darling", "Blues in Hoss' Flat", "Prince of Wales", "Segway in C" (Composed by Frank Wess), "Sweet Georgia Brown", and, of course, the signature "April in Paris". Each member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra was featured at least once, including Carlos Henriquez' bass, which leads me to commend Wynton Marsalis, who sits in the rear, with his blazing trumpet, and showcases his talented team of seasoned musicians. At times he looked like a proud father, as his trombonists or pianist took the lead, while Mr. Marsalis smiled with adoration. This orchestra is collaborative and cohesive.

If one is somewhat familiar with the various ballroom styles of dance, as this dance aficionado is, then one feels a dance rhythm in each of Basie's songs. So, I heard Savoy Swing, as Victor Goines ended a riff on his sax with a bopping beat. I heard a Quickstep as Mr. Marsalis merged a theme on his trumpet with percussive punctuations. I heard Boogie Woogie from Eric Lewis' powerful piano passages, that almost resembled a silent film score. I heard whispering soft Swing that soon evolved into a rousing East Coast Swing. I heard a Foxtrot in "The Very Thought of You", with Ms. Bradford singing in a sexy, passionate tempo. She belted "Teach Me Tonight" with a pulsating, percussive introduction. As the brass section was central to this piece, Ms. Bradford taught me the meaning of the term, "Brassy".

Frank Wess at 82 was full of energy and a joy to listen to, and "Segway in C", decidedly Swing, had little blasts of saxophone and was painted with percussion. In "Battle Royale", a piece composed by both Basie and Duke Ellington, Frank Wess played a flute duet with Ryan Kisor on trumpet. Speaking of trumpets, there were several styles of muting, so that the horns had eclectic effects, from distant to distinct. Although the Program Notes did not include a guitarist, there was a superb guitarist front stage, who often provided an audible and very pleasant dance rhythm. "Tickle Toe", by Lester Young, included trumpet riffs, alternating with Frank Wess' sassy tenor saxophone.

"April in Paris" included three wonderful trombone refrains at the end, and Mr. Marsalis smiled throughout. On a frozen night in New York, Jazz at Lincoln Center seemed like mellow, warm honey in a cup of hot tea. They heartily heated the Basie fans and special guests, including Benny Powell, Basie trombonist, who took a bow from the audience. (See Interview with Benny Powell in Hot House, February 2004 Issue). Kudos to Wynton Marsalis and Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. And, Kudos to the star of the show, Count Basie. I'll bet he was dancing in the aisles.

The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra performs at Jazz at Lincoln Center's "Count Basie Centennial Celebration" concert on January 29, 2004 at Alice Tully Hall.
Photo by Frank Stewart/Jazz at Lincoln Center

Vocalist Carmen Bradford performs with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra at Jazz at Lincoln Center's "Count Basie Centennial Celebration" concert on January 29, 2004 at Alice Tully Hall.
Photo by Frank Stewart/Jazz at Lincoln Center

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at