Tuesday, June 18, 2024

 A tribute to William James ‘Count Basie’ 

By Cinara Marquis

The SUNY Plattsburgh Jazz Ensemble put on Swingin’ Riffs: A Tribute to Count Basie featuring classics from William James “Count” Basie. On the evening of Nov. 18 in the Glenn Giltz Auditorium in Hawkins Hall there was a free jazz concert, open to all. 

Directed by Matthew Pray, the arrangement was flawless and profoundly fun, including “Blues in Hoss’ Flat” arranged by Frank Foster, “JaDa” arranged by Sammy Nestico, “Li’l Darlin’” arranged by Neil Hefty, “Basie Straight Ahead” arranged by Sammy Nestico, “Come Fly with me” arranged by Billy May, “One O’Clock Jump” arranged by Frank Comstock, “Splanky” arranged by Sammy Nestico, “The Count is In” arranged by Jim Martin, “Birdland” arranged by Nick Lane and “Fly Me to the Moon” arranged by Quincy Jones.

The instruments used were saxophone, trombone, piano, guitar, bass and drums featuring these students: Alexander Finkey, Aleena Landeta, McKenna Brazie, Olivia Marocco, Faith Stone, Connor Hill, Elisa Megarr, Cody Walke, Timothy Lloyd, Matthew Snyder, Sara Dean, Grace Estus, Joe Marocco, Shane Gannon, Gio Choi, Kirk Lancto, Keith Shult, Daniel Truax, Linda Sullivan, Mike Godlewski, Luke Gerhardt and Jacob Colten.

The concert was a powerful tribute to Basie, an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader and composer. Well-renowned for his explosive and accomplished discography, Basie was a central shaper of the big-band music of the mid-20th century.

The arbiter blended blues and jazz to create swing – the sound would change the jazz landscape forever. Dubbed the “King of Swing,” Basie founded the Count Basie Orchestra in 1935 and led the group until his death in 1984. Recording more than 480 albums with the band for nearly 50 years, he was an impeccable musician.

Basie is credited for the creation of the “split” tenor saxophone and riffing with a big band using arrangers to broaden their sound. He is also known for his emphasis on the rhythm section and layering powerful vocals. He has collaborated with great singers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis Jr. and Jackie Wilson.

In 1958, Basie made history by becoming the first African-American to receive a Grammy Award; he later earned eight more. He has had an incredible four recordings inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and has been recognized for various other awards, inductions and honoraries.

Basie is also known for his philanthropic work, specifically through the Count Basie Center for the Arts in New Jersey, his birthplace. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to enriching communities’ quality of life through the arts and being a place for inclusive artistic experiences. Basie died in April. 26, 1984. His incredible impact on jazz forever changed the genre and all of music.

Visit SUNY Plasttburgh’s Music Department online event calendar for more information at https://www.plattsburgh.edu/plattslife/arts/music-calendar.html.

You can also subscribe to the department newsletter, “News & Notes,” for quarterly issues featuring SUNY Plattsburgh Music Department news, interviews and updates. Contact Dwayne Butchino, performing arts coordinator, for more information at butc3332@plattsburgh.edu.


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