Paquito D'Rivera, Count Basie and Nnenna Freelon at the Kimmel Center, Philadelphia
Stellar vocalists like Rushing, Williams, Fitzgerald, Sinatra, Bennett, Vaughan, more recently Liz Wright, and a host of others who have thirsted for the opportunity, then realized their dream to sing with this great band, always stayed in the more humble role of guest singer, while Ms. Freelon brought on her own leader and arrangements, taking over the reins from Hughes and the group. (As I recall, Sinatra brought some of his own arrangementsby Quincy Jones in particularwhen working with Basie but never a music director, which would have been an insult to Basie, whom he admired and trusted.) In all fairness, everything Freelon and Wilson did was top notch and faithful to the Basie sound; yet clearly the difficult nature of the big band business is no less a concern to the last and arguably greatest of the big bands. The Count Basie Orchestra is an American institution going back to its earliest days in Kansas City in the 1930s, and I sincerely hope it never loses its inimitable sound and continuity with a tradition of over 75 years. This band belongs to America and not to any single guest performer or impressario, however talented he or she may be.
Paquito D'Rivera Quintet:
Paquito D'Rivera: saxophone/clarinet; Diego Urcola: trumpet, valve trombone: Oscar Stagnaro: bass; Alex Brown: piano; Eric Doob: drums
Count Basie Orichestra:
Bill Hughes: conductor and trombone; trumpets: Michael P. Williams, William "Scotty Barnhart, Endre Rice, Freddie Hendrix; trombones: Clarence Banks, Alvin Walker, David Keim, Barry Cooper; saxophones: John Williams, baritone; Doug Miller, tenor; Doug Lawrence, tenor; John Kelson, lead alto; Marshall McDonald, alto; rhythm: Brian Grice: drums, James Leary: bass, Will Matthews: guitar, Tony Suggs: piano.
Nnenna Freelon: vocals; Dennis Wilson, conductor, trombone, and music director for Ms. Freelon along with the aforementioned members of the Basie Band.