Count Basie Orchestra | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Count Basie Orchestra 

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COUNT BASIE ORCHESTRA

When Count Basie uttered his best-known line--"One more once," which led to a bonus coda on his still-famous hit recording of "April in Paris"--he couldn't have known just how seriously his orchestra would take it. But 13 years after Basie's death, the Basie band keeps on coming back, and nobody's complaining. The Basie organization has avoided the precipitous decline into pallid re-creations of ancient hits that plagues most "ghost bands"; credit its recent musical directors, both of whom went through Basie training during the band's salad days. Frank Foster, who contributed a number of compositions and arrangements to the band's repertoire in the 50s, returned to lead the band in the late 80s and quickly began to unearth long-buried--and thus suddenly fresh--pieces that energized musicians as well as listeners. Trombonist Grover Mitchell, who joined in the 60s and went on to lead his own well-respected jazz orchestras, recently succeeded Foster, and he has already put his own stamp on the outfit: he has unplugged the guitar, restoring to the rhythm section the almost subliminal weight it once got from Freddie Greene's "chunk-a-chomp" acoustic chords. The current lineup also boasts several stalwart soloists of the 70s--saxist Kenny Hing, trumpeter Bob Ojeda, and the recently returned Butch Miles on drums--giving this ghost a decidedly corporeal connection to its past glories. And the arrangements virtually assure that you'll still hear the stunning combination of urbane sophistication and down-home soulfulness, the elegant funk, that was Basie's trademark. The music's sleek, smooth contours make it a superb vehicle for fox-trotters and rug cutters; accordingly, the second show of this engagement will accommodate dancers (the first accompanies dinner). This booking reveals Joe Segal's new joint to be a valuable midsize venue for nationally known artists: a large and comfy room with quite good food, it has until now restricted its schedule to local players while courting the tourist traffic on Navy Pier. Friday and Saturday, 7 and 10 PM, Joe's Be-bop Cafe & Jazz Emporium, 700 E. Grand; 312-525-5299. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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