The Big Band has remained one ofthe enduring institutions in jazz right from the Paul Whiteman Orchestras ofthe 19205, but their great era came in the late 19305, when Swing was King and broadcasts and dance dates were plentiful. allowing the great leaders to keep sixteen piece bands on the road. Jazz enjoyed its most widespread popularity through the music ofgenuine innovators like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Jimmy Lunceford, and Benny Goodman, as well as the more populist dance bands ofGlenn Miller and his imitators. ELLIOT MEADOW pays tribute to the great Basie as the band still bearing his name visits Scotland.
tcould be termed the Basic effect — I I a reaction to hearing the controlled power ofsixteen men swinging in perfect unity, whatever the tempo. That effect, whether in concerts or on record, never failed to elicit a delighted response from a global audience. It was a musical experience that knew no equal. and is unlikely ever to be duplicated, try as others may.
In 1949, Bill Basie was forced by economic necessity to let go the reins of a big band that had, in its fourteen year existence, been greeted with enormous public and critical acclaim. Even if he had never played another note or led another group, the Kid from Red Bank, New Jersey was assured of a singular position in jazz history.
However, after only a couple of years at the helm of a scaled down swing machine, Basie found the funds allowing him to once more fuse seven brass, five reeds and a rhythm section of three, plus, ofcourse, his piano, into a unit which would rock, in more ways than one, the jazz world. The second Basie Big Band was indeed a law unto itself, and from late in 1951, the Basie effect could once again be heard and felt until the main cause of that effect died in April of 1984.
It wasn’t simply the general jazz public who fell under the Basie band’s spell — hard bitten professionals, including promotors, agents, club owners and record company executives as well as fellow musicians, could all be seen in an advanced state of bliss at one point or another when witnessing a Basie performance. _
For example. there is a man of my acquaintance in New York who has been involved with music for the best part of his adult life. Ask any jazz musician or fan in the tri-state area that encompasses New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, who is the best known and most respected jazz
disc jockey ofthe last twenty years, and they will instantly respond with the name of Les Davis.
I remember dropping in to a Basie show at Carnegie Hall with Davis in the mid-19705. Now here is a man not given to frequent demonstrations of approbation, yet as we stood at the back of the auditorium, hearing one more time the Band's classic rendering oprriI in Paris, I noted that Mr Davis had begun to exhibit an unusual degree
of enthusiasm which culminated in his applauding wildly at the song’s conclusion. This fairly stoic and occasionally cynical individual had succumbed to the magic that the Count and his men consistently weaved. Put simply, Les Davis was suffering, and gladly, from the Basic effect.
Elliot Meadow is a writer, broadcaster, and record producer, and worked brieﬂy for the Count Basie Orchestra. He is currently presenting The Tall Old Man Standing Next To Ella Fitzgerald, his seven-part account of the career of jazz impresario Norman Granz, on BBC Radio Scotland.
(The Count Basie Orchestra are at Glasgow City Hall on 12 Feb, and Edinburgh Usher Hall on 14 Feb. See listings).
TOWER OF STRENGTH
It is a happy coincidence that the visit of the Count Basie Orchestra should follow a special celebration for one of Scotland‘s most durable big band leaders. Along with Bill Farming and George McGowan. Tommy Sampson keeps the flag ﬂying on a regular basis around the pub scene. but steps up into the rather more rarificd air of Edinburgh‘s Queen’s Hall on Feb 10 (see listings) to mark his seventieth year.
Sampson began his playing career on cornet in a Salvation Army band at the tender age of4. After his demob from the Army in 1945. he led his own big band on the dance band circuit, arranging the material and introducing many noted players — so much so that Ted Heath swooped to tempt several of his top men away to Heath's own famous band, including saxophonist Danny Moss, one of the guests at this concert.
Tommy worked as an arranger for George Mitchell in London during the 19505, but returned to Scotland in 1963, where he became a ﬁxture on the jazz scene. Other guests on this occasion include trumpeter Paul Eschelby, trombonist Gordon Campbell, and
I GARY MOORE, Edinburgh Playhouse, Marsh 5 (557 2590).
I RANDY NEWMAN, Playhouse, Marsh 6 (557 2590).
I BLUE OYSTER CULT. Playhouse. March 6 (557 2590).
I NEW ORDER, Glasgow SECC. March 25 (226 4679). I ROACHFORD, Glasgow Barrowland. Marsh 30 (226 4679).
I KOOL AND THE GANG, Playhouse, April 3 (557
I ELVIS COSTELLO. Playhouse, May 25 Glasgow Pavilion. May 26 (557 2590/332 1646).
I ANTHRAX; THE WATEHBOYS; JOHNNY MATNIS; OEACON BLUE; DIANA ROSS: STEVIE WONOEH:ELTON JOHN.
I SCO 15th ANNIVERSARY CONCERT. Edinburgh Usher Hall. Feb 25, (668 2019).
I TALLIS SCHOLARS. Edinburgh Greyhiars Church. Feb 25 (666 2019). I SCOTTISH BALLET‘S
saxophonist Jay Craig.
At the other end of the age scale, the very impressive youngsters of the Strathclyde Youth Jazz Orchestra, as whipped into shape by saxophonist Bobby Wishart, can now be heard in a regular fortnightly gig at Glasgow‘s Society of Musicians (the next is Sunday 19 at 2pm). Boasting the most imaginative repertoire of any big band up here, they are keeping an important tradition alive , and developing into an excellent unit in their own right. (Kenny Mathicson)
[JEEEEUIIIIII THEFOUR BROTHERS
Scotland gets another taste of the seductive rhythms of Africa, this time in the shape ofThe Four Brothers, a guitar based quartet from Zimbabwe. On the strength oftheir compilation album
PETER PAN (World Premiere), Glasgow Theatre Royal, Feb 24-25, 27-Mareh 4 (331 1234/332 9000).
I JOHN TUNNELL MEMORIAL CONCERT. Edinburgh Usher Hall. March 12 (666 2019).
I DAVY SPILLANE BAND. Edinburgh Oueen's Hall. March 17 (666 2019).
I EDINBURGH FOLK FESTIVAL. 17-26 March. Advance details from 031 220 0464.
I DANNY THOMPSON'S WHATEVER/DAN AR BRAS. Oueen’s Hall, March 24 (666 2019).
Jazz & Blues
I 606 BERG/MIKE STERN QUARTET, Edinburgh Oueen's Hall, Feb 24 (666 2019)
I ANDY SHEPPARD SEXTET, Oueen’s Hall, March 3 (666 2019).
I 9.6. KING. Edinburgh Playhouse. March 15 (557 2590).
I ROADSIDE PICNIC. Oueen‘s Hall, March 10 (666 2019).
I CHICK COREA/GARY DURTON, Oueen's Hall. March 17 (666 2019).
Makorokoto from the estimable Cooking Vinyl label, the band possess the exhuberant rhythmic drive. lightly dancing guitar lines and upbeat vocal harmonies which made their compatriots The Bhundu Boys such a success. at least before they watered down their music for mass Western consumption.
The Brothers. whose music is rooted in the traditional mbira (or thumb piano) music of Zimbabwe, as well as pop‘s universal voice. have been stars back home for several years. and represented Zimbabwe at the World Youth Festival in Moscow in 1985. but now make their ﬁrst British tour. and should not be missed by anyone with a liking for infectiously joyful music. Scottish dates take in Fury Murrys in Glasgow (Feb 21) and the Peace Festival Concert at Edinburgh Oueen‘s Hall (Feb 23), as well as dates in Aberdeen (Feb 22) and Dundee (Feb 26). See Rock & Folk listings. (KM)
The frustrating disparity between the number of talented musicians currently around on the Scottish scene, and the shrinking number of places available to them to play, has prompted singer Sophie Bancroft to set up Jazzworks Music Club, a new Monday night promotion in the function suite ofThe Merlin in Edinburgh's Morningside Road. Sophie knows the difficulties first-hand, having recently lost her regular gig at L‘Attache. and hopes the new venue will help solve at least some of those problems. It gets underway in fine style with the John Rae Collective on Feb 20, while subsequent gigs in this first season will feature the Brian Kellock Trio with Jimmy Woods, Fionna Duncan's Jazzers. Sophie‘s own Quartet plus the Ronnie Rae/Neil Warden Duo. and Dick Lee's No No Nonet. See Jazzlistings. (KM)
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