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Basie's Best Plus In Philly

AAJ Staff By

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The legendary Count Basie Band along with top pop/jazz vocalists Diane Schuur, Lizz Wright and Johnny Mathis are some of the star attractions in Philly.

KIMMEL CENTER May 6 had The Count Basie Band led by trombonist Bill Hughes with special guest jazz vocalist Lizz Wright. Hughes has been with the famed Basie band for more than half a century, working with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald with some 15 Grammy-winning recordings. Its heritage goes back to the classic band led by William "Count Basie who wrote jazz history with Lester Young, Jimmy Rushing and Jo Jones.

Hughes said of Basie, "He was a giant in my mind, reserved and quiet with a big stick, you always knew who the boss was. He would quietly let you know who the boss was and where you stood. Acknowledging his long stay with the band, Hughes said, "No one has been there as long as I have, but our baritone sax, John William's, has been there for 30 years. He said the band, "will probably be playing some old favorites such as 'April in Paris,' 'Jumping at the Woodside, 'One O'Clock Jump' and some things they haven't heard, a balance of the new and the old. Melba Joyce, a fine blues singer, was with the band. Added was vocalist Lizz Wright, described by USA Today as a "smoky, simmering talent and who the New York Times said, "has a pitch perfect, full bodied voice. Hughes said he was looking forward to playing Kimmel as a leader and "Philly is one of my favorite places to play. The band concentrated on numbers made famous in the 50's when Hughes joined it rather than the classic numbers from the 1930s when Basie was at his height. The musicians were all powerhouse performers with arrangements that let the audience know what swing was about. Ms Wright has a marvelous voice that was at its most compelling when singing gospel like numbers where she got her childhood start. May 15, the legendary Johnny Mathis will make his Kimmel debut singing classics from his new CD "Isn't It romantic, such as "Misty and "Chances Are. He was never really a jazz singer, but a classic pop vocalist who often worked the jazz clubs.

Kimmel Center, Verizon Hall, Broad and Spruce Streets, 215. 893.1999, May 6, 8 p.m., $29-$70, Basie/Wright; May 15, 7:30 p.m., $76-$100, Mathis.

ZANZIBAR BLUE next weekend has internationally acclaimed jazz-pop singer-pianist Diane Schuur. Blind since birth she is a self-taught pianist discovered by Dizzy Gillespie with Stan Getz as a mentor. She sang with the Count Basie Orchestra garnering Grammy Awards and is working now with the Grammy Award-winning Caribbean Jazz Project. This is her first move in that genre spotlighted by her new CD "Schuur Fire with songs such as "Ordinary World and "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight. The Lynne Arriale Trio will be there this weekend with its 10th anniversary CD, "Come Together. Pianist-composer Arriale won the Great American Jazz Piano Completion in 1933. The New York Times said she is a brilliant musician and her "bandstand instincts place her amongst the top jazz pianists of the day.

Zanzibar Blue, Broad and Walnut Streets, 215.732.4500, 8&10 p.m., May 6-7, $25, Arriale; May 13-14, $35, Schuur.

ANNENBERG CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS May 14 has the last performance of its gospel and blues series with The Holmes Brothers and Sister Marie Knight presenting a tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Annenberg Center, Zellerbach Theater, 3680 Walnut Street, 215.898.3900, 8 p.m., May 14, $19-$44.

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