Monday, February 17, 2014

The Count Basie Orchestra and New York Voices

A legacy is something that lives on after your death and The Count Basie Orchestra obviously fits that description. Count Basie passed away in 1984 but his music lives on in this group.  Two of the present members of the orchestra actually performed with him.
Last Friday night at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha, The Count Basie Orchestra combined the best of the blues, jazz, swing, and Big Band to create an evening of musical delights for the large audience.
Due to the weather complications on the East Coast, not all seventeen members of this group were able to be in Omaha.   Mark Benson whose alto saxophone playing is known throughout the area, substituted for one of the members.  His skills and musicianship perfectly blended with the group.   Also as a substitute was Professor Lindsey Sargeant on the piano who is director of jazz studies at Florida A & M University.
Clarence Banks on trombone and Omaha born and raised Marcus McLaurine on bass actually worked and performed with Count Basie.
Scotty Barnhart was the leader of this group and showed his extraordinary trumpet skills in "Who, Me?" where the music of his trumpet sang as a voice when he utilized the plunger mute..
What was truly unusual about this group was the diversity of their selections in style and tempo.  Yes, the  songs were from many years ago but the harmonies were frequently cutting edge perfectly combining old with new.  
Some of the selections played were written by Nebraska composer, Neal Hefti.   He wrote many songs performed by this orchestra as well as the theme for the television series "Batman" and "The Odd Couple".
New York Voices beautifully added their vocal talents to the orchestra with the versatile singing of Kim Nazarian,  Lauren Kinhan, Peter Eldridge and Darmon Meader. Their voices accompanied by the orchestra perfectly blended into one while also creating unusual and exciting harmonies demonstrating a variety of styles and rhythms.  From the pure harmonies in "Devil May Care" to  "Mellotone" to the "scatting" of "Cloudburst", this foursome thrilled the audience with their vocal complexities and style variations. What also was unusual with this quartet was how they frequently changed the parts they were singing while maintaining fluid tonal quality.  Yes, I am purchasing their music to continue hearing both their blending and harmonies  again and again.
The first numbers by both the orchestra and the quartet were not balanced.   As the evening progressed, the both the blending and balancing of music dramatically improved creating numerous magically musical moments.
For those who could not attend or those who would like to hear The Count Basie Orchestra and New York Voices, consider their recorded music.    This is legendary music that has already survived the test of time.

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