The Count Basie Orchestra at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
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The last date listed for The Count Basie Orchestra was Saturday April 29, 2006 / 8:00pm.
Currently at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
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Count Basie (1904-1984) was a bandleader and pianist, a pioneer in the swing era of jazz, and an icon in the jazz world. Along with Duke Ellington, he helped define the sounds of swing for an emerging musical genre. His band, which took many forms under his direction of sixty years, became established as a “permanent jazz institution and training ground for young musicians.” Basie, a performer to the end, occasionally played from a wheelchair during the later years of his life.
Basie got his start during the early days of jazz. At the close of the roaring ‘20s, during the early days of jazz, Kansas City was the place to be. As a young pianist working the vaudeville circuit, “Bill Basie” landed there and began to play with the Benny Moten Orchestra. Jazz experts maintain that Basie at the keyboard signaled the beginning of the Moten band’s historical significance. When Benny Moten died suddenly three years later, Basie went from pianist to bandleader. He took the name “The Count” when his new group headlined at Kansas City’s Reno Club in 1935 – and the rest is history. The Count Basie Orchestra flourished during the ’30s and ’40s, attracting talented soloists and record crowds. The 1950s saw the decline of the “Big Band” sound, but while other bands were downsizing and vanishing, The Count Basie Orchestra triumphed with European concert tours, a Royal Command Performance for the Queen of England, and a sold-out 13-week Waldorf-Astoria engagement. In the ’60s, when pundits were declaring big band dead, the orchestra was busy with more European and Southeast Asian tours, regular television and Las Vegas appearances, and crowded schedules of playing dates across North America.
Bill Hughes, who has led the band since 2003, joined the Count Basie Orchestra in September of 1953. A pharmacy student at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Hughes never expected to make a career out of music. But when opportunity knocked in the form of an invitation to audition from the Count himself, Hughes jumped at the chance. Fifty-two years later, aside from a six-year break from touring to be with his family, he’s still making a living doing what he loves. A legendary trombonist, Bill began his career with the group playing the tenor trombone in a three-man section with Henry Coker and Benny Powell. At one time, the trio was hailed as the best trombone section in jazz. Today, “Mr. B,” as he’s affectionately called by the “younger members” of the orchestra, has played at every major jazz festival in the world, including the Newport Jazz Festival, Montreux and Bern festivals of Switzerland, the Heritage Festival of New Orleans, and many other festivals, concert halls, jazz clubs and the like in Germany, Australia, the Far East, South America, the Caribbean and the United States. He’s also had the opportunity to record and perform with artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Lena Horne, Nat “King” Cole and Rosemary Clooney.
Drummer Butch Miles continues to attract worldwide attention. He has been hailed by The March of Jazz as “a monster swinger and a tremendous soloist, [who] rose to fame behind the drums of the Count Basie band between 1975 and 1979, propelling the band to new heights with his unending energy and infectious enthusiasm.” In addition to Count Basie, Miles has performed with such luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Dave Brubeck, Mel Torme, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Tony Bennett, Zubin Mehta, Itzhak Perlman, and many other musical legends.
Like Bill Hughes, Miles has performed at every major jazz festival in the world including the Montreal Jazz Festival; North Sea Jazz Festival at The Hague, the Netherlands; the Montreux and Bern Jazz Festivals in Switzerland; the Berlin, Munich, Cologne, and Stuttgart Jazz Festivals in Germany. He has toured extensively throughout Europe, Australia, the Far East, the Americas, and the Caribbean. Miles has been a featured performer of the West Coast Jazz Party every year since it originated in 1995. In 1976, he played a Royal Command Performance for the Queen of England, which was televised throughout all of Europe. Butch Miles has recorded over 100 albums and has performed on four Grammy Award-winning albums. The Washington Post describes his performances style as “flamboyant and flashy but impeccably precise and brilliantly swinging.”
After Basie’s death in 1984, the band continued to travel and perform. Today, the Count Basie Orchestra is comprised of eighteen performers committed to upholding and advancing this “American institution” that the Count began. There are several new members, yet the core of the sound still swings from musicians hand-picked by Count Basie himself.