Count Basie Orchestra still jumpin’Written by Vicki L. Kroll | | email@example.com
In 1953, Bill Hughes had the chance to join the Count Basie Orchestra or the Duke Ellington Orchestra. He chose Basie.
”I was in a dream world. I was 23 years old. I just couldn’t imagine myself playing on that level,” the trombone player said. ”We played a lot at a club in Manhattan — Birdland. We played there practically every night when we weren’t on the road.
”Some of those nights the band sounded so good I thought the top of my head would come off,” Hughes said from his home in Staten Island, N.Y.
”I felt safer joining Basie’s band,” Hughes said. ”I thought I was more of a swinging trombone player than a mechanical trombone player.”
The Count Basie Orchestra will swing into Sylvania at 7 p.m. Feb. 26 for a show at the Franciscan Center at Lourdes College, 6832 Convent Blvd. Tickets are $25.
Hughes is the director of the band, which he has been with for all but six years he took off to help raise his family.
Basie founded the orchestra in 1935. The group was known for its Kansas City jazz style.
”Basie used to describe it as ‘foot-pattin’ music,’ ” Hughes said. ”He used to say, ‘If I didn’t see anyone pattin’ their feet, I’m not doing my job.’ All the leaders have tried to continue that.”
Basie died in 1984. There are five musicians who played with the Count still in the group — Hughes; Clarence Banks, trombone; James Leary, bass; Butch Miles, drums; and John Williams, baritone saxophone. The 18-piece orchestra will be joined by vocalist Melba Joyce.
”People will recognize some of the songs — ‘Jumpin’ at the Woodside,’ ‘April in Paris’ — and some of them they won’t,” Hughes said. ”But it’ll all be in the Basie style, and that’s foot-pattin’ music. ”
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