The Count Basie Orchestra: Basie Swings The Blues!

The Basie legacy band under Scotty Barnhart does the blues with guests including Shemekia Copeland, Buddy Guy, Keb' Mo' and George Benson

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Many years after the Count left us, the retention of his name and musical style continues with the 18-piece orchestra featured on this album, directed by trumpeter Scotty Barnhart. Celebrating the blues in its manifold forms as its theme, the album features 14 contemporary blues artists, vocalists and instrumentalists, representing diverse styles, in mainly individual guest appearances and backed by the Basie-styled orchestra.

I wondered why such a huge orchestra was deemed necessary for this project and one misses the supple contained control of Basie’s legendary original rhythm section. However, sensible arrangements ensure that the individual guest artists aren’t swamped. A breezy, toe-tapping shuffle rhythm is deployed in several tracks to good effect.

The guests rise to the occasion, all currently active – even Bobby Rush, aged 89 – and deliver strongly expressive performances. As both vocalist and guitarist, Castro “Mr Sipp” Coleman is the only guest featured on more than one track, impressing particularly in Dirty Mississippi Blues.

Other tracks I especially enjoyed include I’m A Woman (Shemekia Copeland), Down Home Blues (Keb’ Mo’ and Lauren Mitchell), Evil Gal Blues (Ledisi) and Just For A Thrill (Carmen Bradford, hired in her younger days by Basie himself). Top name on the guest list, George Benson, contributes some classy guitar, fluent and elegant in less blues-intensive style on the closing Rock Candy which features the orchestra and its soloists in more uptempo, typical big-band style.

This is a thoroughly and generously planned album with compelling performances throughout, giving an authentic classic blues feel. It would surely have pleased Basie, the old master. Highly recommended.


Discography
(1) Let’s Have A Good Time; (2) Boogie In The Dark; (3) I’m A Woman; (4) Down Home Blues; (5) The Patton Basie Shuffle; (6) Dirty Mississippi Blues; (7) Stormy Monday; (8) The Midnight Hour; (9) Evil Gal Blues; (10) Look What You’ve Done; (11) Just For A Thrill; (1) Rock Candy (47.29)
The Count Basie Orchestra: Scotty Barnhart, Frank Green, Shawn Edmonds, Endre Rice, Brandon Lee (t); David Glasser, Markus Howell (as, f); Doug Lawrence, Doug Miller (ts); Josh Lee (bar); Isrea Butler, Clarence Banks, Mark Williams (tb); Alvin Walker (btb); Trevor Ware (b, elb); Glen Pearson (p); Will Matthews (g). Guests: (1) Castro “Mr Sipp” Coleman. (2) Bobby Rush. (3) Shemekia Copeland, Buddy Guy, Charlie Musselwhite. (4) Keb’ Mo’, Lauren Mitchell. (5) Charlton Johnson. (6) as (1). (7) Bettye Lavette. (8) Robert Cray. (9Ledisi. (10) Jamie Davis. (11) Carmen Bradford. (12) George Benson. East West Studios, USA, August 2022.
Candid CAN 33312