The Count Basie Orchestra and Vocalist Lizz Wright
The group began with the Ellington classic, "Things Ain't What They Used to Be. As a former trombonist myself, I was especially struck by the fine "choir ensemble sound of the trombone section. (After the show, I told Bill that he must work them pretty hard, but he replied, "No, they're all just great musicians. ) Lively alto and trumpet solos presaged the emphasis on the individual players that pervaded the whole set. Then came Sam Nestico's "The Wham Machine with a powerful tenor solo by Doug Miller. Next, Lizz Wright joined the group, singing the standard, "Jazz Is... and title tune of her new CD, Dreaming Wide Awake. Her musical versatility was evident: she fit in perfectly with the band, and her execution was seamless. Then came the Basie classic, "Corner Pocket, composed by his long-time guitarist Freddie Green. After that, Hughes turned up the volume with Neil Hefti's "Fan Tail featuring solos and trading off by two altos and two trumpets, with an astonishing solo by trumpeter Endre Rice. Hughes then introduced the band's vocalist Melba Joyce, a red hot mama in a red dress with a voice like Nancy Wilson and a blues style all her own. Joyce walloped "All of Me and showed her versatility and nuanced phrasing with the ballad: "What are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?
The group did more than justice to the famous Frank Foster tune: "Shiny Stockings. Its slow-paced swing was reinforced by Shawn Edmonds' trumpet solo. The brass section's use of mutes is characteristic of Basie's unique use of muting to create a sense of subtlty within his powerful voicings. The immortal "April in Paris featured Bill Hughes' luscious trombone solo, and Scotty Barnhardt did the famous "Pop Goes the Weasel trumpet solo with aplomb. Lizz Wright came back on with a lovely rendition of "Nature Boy, made famous by Nat King Cole. I was struck here by the incredible antiphonal choir effect between brass and winds: someone is doing some great arrangements for the group these days. Things went wild with Neil Hefti's "Duet, in which Endre Rice and Scotty Barnard outdid themselves. Then drummer Butch Miles did his thing on "The Drum Boy with a fine tenor sax solo by Doug Miller. The evening closed in a lovely sentimental way with the the classic "One O'Clock Jump," with Bill and Melba dancing together as the audience gave a rousing ovation.
Lizz Wright Personnel
John Cowherd (Piano); Doug Weiss (Bass); Mike Moreno and Marvin Sewell (Guitars); Earl Harwin (Drums) (Please note: Based on information obtained subsequently, this personnel list is corrected from the original posting. Apologies to all.VLS)
Count Basie Orchestra Personnel
Bill Hughes, Bass Trombone & Leader; John Williams, Baritone Saxophone; Doug Miller, Tenor Saxophone; Alto Saxophone; Marshall McDonald, Alto Saxophone; Doug Lawrence, Tenor Saxophone; Clarence Banks, Trombone; Alvin Walker, Trombone; Dave Keim, Trombone; Barry Cooper, Trombone; Scotty Barnhart, Trumpet; Michael Williams, Trumpet; Shawn Edmonds, Trumpet; Endre Rice, Trumpet; Butch Miles, Drums; James Leary, Bass; Will Matthews, Guitar; Tony Suggs, Piano; Melba Joyce, Vocalist
Lizz Wright by Jose Horna