Count Basie Orchestra - Playboy Jazz Festival
The Count Basie Orchestra under the direction of Scotty Barnhart
“Count Basie isn't just a man, or even a band. He's a way of life.” Those words, from the legendary singer Lena Horne, speak to the enduring legacy of William “Count” Basie. The group was founded by Basie in 1935 at the height of the big band swing era, and the Count Basie Orchestra has continued on in stride since the leader’s passing in 1984.
The Count Basie Orchestra has served as an incubator for some of the greatest soloists, composers, arrangers, and vocalists in jazz history, including Lester Young, Billie Holiday, Joe Williams, and many more who became international stars in conjunction with their work with Basie. Led by Thad Jones, Frank Foster, Grover Mitchell, Bill Hughes, Dennis Mackrel, and now Scotty Barnhart, the band maintains a mission of preserving an American musical heritage, an 18-member orchestra serving as a throughline connecting the legacy of swing to Basie’s stomping, shouting blues delivery.
With a membership spanning generations – including a number of musicians hired by Basie himself, as well as a cast of younger players – the Count Basie Orchestra swings with a sense of history and an eye on the future. In 2017, the Count Basie Orchestra released A Very Swingin’ Basie Christmas!, the first holiday album in the 80-year history of the orchestra. Featuring guest vocalists Johnny Mathis and Ledisi, in addition to singing by the Orchestra’s own Carmen Bradford and Ellis Marsalis, the album went to No. 1 on the Billboard Jazz Charts and sold out on Amazon. 2018 finds the Orchestra celebrating its musical lineage – which includes past landmark pairings with singers like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Jackie Wilson – with a new recording. The album, which is scheduled for release via Concord later this year, features Stevie Wonder, organist Joey DeFrancesco, vocal group Take 6, Kurt Elling, and more, furthering a one-of-a-kind musical legacy and tradition.
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