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Big Band Report

Granddad Does Dallas

By Published: April 15, 2006
The World Famous Count Basie Orchestra (its present billing) rolled into town March 8 for a one-night stand at Rio Rancho High School, westward across the Rio Grande from Albuquerque. The orchestra is ably supervised by Bill Hughes, a gentleman of the old school who joined the Count in 1953 as bass trombonist and took command of the orchestra after fellow trombonist and director Grover Mitchell passed away about two years ago. Even though half its members were ill with flu or colds, the orchestra rose to the occasion, playing with typical verve and fire through two sets, each of which followed the same pattern—five instrumentals, three vocals by Melba Joyce, and a flag-waving finale.

The concert was a fund-raiser for the Rio Rancho Jazz program. As the auditorium was almost filled, the hope is that some cash was raised to help the school and its young musicians move forward. The Rio Rancho Jazz Band 1, directed by Brad Dubbs, opened the program with Mike Tomaro's "Del Corazon, followed by arrangements by George Stone of "Body and Soul and Mark Taylor of "I Remember You. The Basie orchestra, with two Albuquerque natives—drummer Butch Miles and tenor saxophonist Doug Lawrence — in the lineup, roared from the starting gate with Sammy Nestico's "Wind Machine, then slowed the tempo for an arrangement of the tragic folk tune "Frankie & Johnny. Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train was next up, followed by a feature for Lawrence, "Chelsea Bridge, and Ernie Wilkins' "Basie Power before Joyce came on to charm the audience with "Lover Come Back to Me, "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life and "All of Me. Miles, flu-ridden but explosive, was showcased on the opening set's crowd-pleasing finale, "The Drum Thing.

After intermission, the orchestra opened with Frank Wess' "Segue in C and Nestico's "The Heat's On, then sandwiched two Benny Carter themes, "Miss Missouri and "Vine Street Rumble, around a feature for tenor Doug Miller, "I.Q., written originally for Basie tenor Ike Quebec. After Joyce sang "Sweet Georgia Brown, "I'll Close My Eyes and "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water, the orchestra wrapped things up with another mercurial chart by Ernie Wilkins, "Basie. Even though the Basie orchestra plays more than two hundred road dates each year, there aren't many touring bands left (the Woody Herman and Glenn Miller orchestras are among the remaining handful), so if any of them comes to your neighborhood, it's worth the time and effort to go and see them. It may not be too long before such an opportunity is lost forever.

Kenton, Herman and More Kenton

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