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Count Basie Orchestra to Perform for Lecture-Concert Series


Count Basie Orchestra
Count Basie Orchestra in Concert

JONESBORO – Arkansas State University's Lecture-Concert Series will feature the Count Basie Orchestra Monday, Oct. 20, at 7:30 p.m. in Riceland Hall, Fowler Center, 201 Olympic Dr.

The event is presented with funding support from the Diversity Initiatives Program, the A-State Bands, the Department of Music, the College of Fine Arts, and the Delta Jazz Workshop, according to Dr. Tim Crist, chair of the Lecture-Concert Committee.  Admission is free to all events in the Lecture-Concert Series.

Dr. Kenneth Carroll, associate professor and director of jazz studies in the Department of Music, emphasized the importance of Basie's music to students and jazz fans alike.

"Jazz exists best live, and we in the Jonesboro community are blessed to have this historical ensemble perform in the beautiful Fowler Center," he said.  "My jazz studies students who hear daily about the Basie style can now experience this emotional gift first-hand.  Common in the 1930s through the early ‘60s, touring big bands are becoming increasingly rare.  Everyone should avail themselves of this important opportunity; it will not happen often."

Carroll explained that every jazz student from then until now is offered Basie band recordings as examples of best practices. 

"No rhythm section artist is unaffected by the most famous rhythm section of all time:  Basie, Greene, and Jones in addition to jazz icons Billie Holliday, Lester Young, and Buck Clayton," he explained.  "No education is complete without 'Lil’ Darlin,' 'Shiny Stockings,' 'One O’clock Jump' or any other of the thousands of 'Basie signature' sounds."

A native of New Jersey, young Basie was touring with Gonzelle White and the Big Jazz Jamboree when he became stranded in Kansas City.  He began to explore his deep love of the Blues and met his future bandmates during a period in the 1920s and 30s when Kansas City was headquarters for jazz bands, swing music and the precursors of modern jazz.

“Many Americans point proudly to New Orleans as the birthplace of America’s music, jazz.  In fact, several important cultural centers fostered the growth and development of jazz.  One of the key centers was Kansas City," Carroll continued.  "The Kansas City style was well known by all musicians after the 1920s.  The preeminent voice was the riff-based communications of William 'Count' Basie, who took over the Benny Moten band in 1935 after Moten died then developed arguably one of the two most important large jazz ensembles in music history."

Basie created a significant impact on the big band era as he led the band for nearly 50 years until his death in 1984.  Thad Jones, Frank Foster, Grover Mitchell, Bill Hughes, Dennis Mackrel, and now Scotty Barnhart have continued to lead the Count Basie Orchestra, maintaining it as one of the elite performing organizations in jazz.  Current members include two musicians hired by Basie himself, Carmen Bradford and Clarence Banks.

"Basie’s legend also involved fostering the same basic musicians for four decades – an unheard of achievement then and now.  Basie’s infectious music moved audiences around the world, on movie soundtracks (even starring in 'Blazing Saddles'), and fostered the career of literally hundreds of players and writers," Carroll added.

The orchestra has continued for 79 years, winning 18 Grammy Awards and performing for every major jazz festival and concert hall in the world, along with royalty, movies and television shows.  Some of the greatest soloists, composers, arrangers, and vocalists in jazz history trace their success to their involvement in the Basie Orchestra.

The Lecture-Concert Series brings notable guest speakers and performers of diverse backgrounds and wide appeal to the campus, according to Crist.  For more details, individuals may visit the series website, AState.edu/lectureconcert, or contact Crist, tcrist@astate.edu, (870) 972‑2094.

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