GRASS VALLEY – The Center for the Arts proudly presents The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra in the Marisa Funk Theater on July 24, 2022. The Count Basie Orchestra has won every respected jazz poll in the world at least once, including 18 Grammy Awards, performed for kings, queens, and other world royalty, appeared in several movies, television shows, at every major jazz festival and major concert hall in the world. The legend continues today with director Scotty Barnhart and guest vocalist Carmen Bradford, but began with pianist and bandleader William James “Count” Basie and still is an American institution that personifies the grandeur and excellence of jazz. In the history of jazz music, there is only one bandleader that has the distinction of having his orchestra still performing sold out concerts all over the world, with members personally chosen by him, for over 30 years after his passing.
William “Count” Basie was born in Red Bank, New Jersey in 1904 and began his early playing days by working as a silent movie pianist and organist. In 1927, Basie, then touring with Gonzelle White and the Big Jazz Jamboree, found himself stranded in Kansas City, Missouri where he would begin to explore his deep love of the blues and meet his future band mates, including bassist Walter Page.
Walter Page’s Blue Devils and Bennie Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra caught Basie’s ear and soon he was playing with both and serving as second pianist and arranger for Mr. Moten. In 1935, Bennie Moten died, and it was left to Basie to take some of the musicians from that orchestra and form his own, The Count Basie Orchestra. Some 86 years later, his orchestra continues to epitomize Kansas City Swing and the big band era. With the April In Paris recording in 1955, the orchestra began to set standards of musical achievement that have been emulated by every jazz orchestra since that time. Some of the greatest soloists, composers, arrangers, and vocalists in jazz history such as Lester Young, Billie Holiday, Frank Foster, Thad Jones, Sonny Payne, Freddie Green, Snooky Young, Frank Wess, and Joe Williams, became international stars once they began working with The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra. Since Basie’s passing in 1984, others have led the orchestra forward such as Thad Jones, Frank Foster, Grover Mitchell, Bill Hughes, Dennis Mackrel, and since September of 2013, Scotty Barnhart maintains it as one of the elite performing organizations in jazz.
Recent honors include their 2022 Grammy nomination for Live at Birdland, a 2019 Grammy nomination for All About That Basie, which features special guests Stevie Wonder, Jon Faddis, and Take 6 among others, and the 2018 Downbeat Readers Poll Award as the #1 Jazz Orchestra in the world.
This great 18-member orchestra is still continuing the excellent history started by Basie of stomping and shouting the blues, as well as refining those musical particulars that allow for the deepest and most moving of swing. Don’t miss an evening with the most venerable and viable enterprises in American music, The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra at The Center for the Arts. Special thanks to our show sponsor Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley.
Since 2000, The Center for the Arts, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization, has grown into a leading presenter of music, dance, theater, comedy, literary and visual art, and family programming, offering more than 150 events per year from its location in downtown Grass Valley. The Center recently completed a major renovation of its multiuse, 21,000-square-foot facility in downtown Grass Valley, making it a premier performing arts destination. The venue includes the Main Stage, which accommodates up to 492 guests in configurable theater seats and up to 700 patrons for dance shows, and a 90-seat studio theater.