REVIEW: The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra at Sydney Opera House
The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra featuring Carmen Bradford
Thursday August 2nd at the Sydney Opera House
reviewed by Paola Micieli
In the sumptuous atmosphere of the Sydney Opera House, The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra has performed a very special tribute to the great Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. The Basie Band had a strong history with both artists and their connection was palpable in this homage to these two greats of jazz.
From Billie Holiday to Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra to Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughan to Ella Fitzgerald, the Count Basie Orchestra has been swinging behind some of the top acts of the modern era. Their tradition of excellence has continued beyond the Count’s passing in 1984, and they have been awarded 18 Grammy Awards, the latest being bestowed for their Count Plays Duke album of ’99.
Current members still include trombonist Clarence Banks, hired by Basie himself, as well as former members of Stan Kenton’s, Benny Goodman’s and Lionel Hampton’s ensembles, and the remarkable Carmen Bradford, who was chosen by Basie as vocalist for his Orchestra immediately after having heard her sing, and has performed with artists including Tony Bennett, James Brown, Wynton Marsalis, Frank Sinatra and George Benson.
Getting the chance to see the Count Basie Orchestra live on stage has been a real experience impossible to forget: 18 elements sharing the goal of making the music swing and roll, combining technical perfection with an emotional strength that easily stole my heart and the heart of the whole audience, and made us sing along with Carmen Bradford, enjoying every song.
Guided by band leader and trumpeter Scotty Barnhart the orchestra swings with charm, Carmen Bradford brings her warm, bluesy voice to some numbers, and the energy of the instrumentals is powerful and precise.
The Count once said “If you play a tune and a person don’t tap their feet, don’t play the tune.”, and while the music flowed into the hall, we sure couldn’t help but tap along.