(EDWARDSVILLE, Ill) The legendary big band jazz of the Count Basie Orchestra directed by Bill Hughes-the sound that helped the likes of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett swing to an exciting beat-takes center stage for the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Arts & Issues series at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 1, in SIUE's Meridian Ballroom.
The group has won every musical award imaginable, including 17 Grammies, and has been named to every respected jazz poll in the world at least once. The appearance will be part of the SIUE Jazz Festival, presented by the Department of Music as a non-competitive, educational event celebrating the music that is America's art form-jazz.
Each year, the festival features a jazz innovator and this year chose the Count Basie Orchestra. High school and middle school bands will perform throughout the day and receive immediate feedback from festival clinicians. Other festival highlights and opportunities will include SIUE Jazz Camp scholarship opportunities and a performance by the SIUE Concert Jazz Band.
A native of New Jersey, William "Count" Basie knocked around various New York City bands in the late 1920s until he visited Tulsa, Okla., and was asked to join Walter Page's Blue Devils. He then jumped to Benny Moton's Kansas City Orchestra and began to make a name for himself throughout that KC swing scene. After forming his own band, it wasn't long before Basie became widely regarded as one of the most important jazz bandleaders of his day. "This is the real Basie sound," says Arts & Issues Director Grant Andree.
"Many of these musicians joined since Basie died in 1984, but there also is a core of players in this group that was hand-picked by Basie himself," he said.
Hughes joined the Basie organization in 1953 and assumed leadership of the band in 2002. As a tenor and bass trombonist, Hughes anchored what music critics called "one of the finest trombone sections in jazz" in the Count Basie Band. He has carried on the Count's legacy well, Andree pointed out. With 19 performers, 17 sidemen, and a vocalist, the Count Basie Orchestra has lived on as America's premier jazz band. The group continues the legacy of Basie's trademark repertoire, with tunes such as One O'Clock Jump and April in Paris.
"It will be a great night for tapping your feet," Andree said.
Tickets for the Count Basie Orchestra directed by Bill Hughes are $27; SIUE employees and retirees, as well as all senior citizens, $25; SIUE students, $13. Ticket information, subscription rates and ticket sales are available on the Web site: artsandissues.com, or by calling (618) 650-5774.