WA Youth Jazz Orchestra pays tribute to Count Bassie and Charles Mingus | OUTInPerth


Celebrating the Greatest: 100th Anniversary of the Basie Band and Charles Mingus | Down to Shift | October 15, 2022 | ★★★★★

The WA Youth Jazz Orchestra hosted a two-night celebration of the work of the Count Bassie Orchestra and jazz great Charles Mingus, showcasing the wealth of talent within their own ranks.

This year is the 100th birthday celebration of legendary bassist and composer Charles Mingus, while many founding members of the Count Bassie Orchestra were also born in the same year.

Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Joe Newman, Frank Wess and Ernie Wilkins were all born in 1922, contributing iconic arrangements and solos on some of the Orchestra’s most famous recordings.

The celebration included performances by two of the organization’s youth orchestras. The Minter Ellison Monday Night Orchestra, which provided the first set of the evening, followed by the St John of God Health Care Tuesday Night Orchestra.

A procedure was opened with Freckle Face, a song composed by Sammy Nestico for the Count Basie Orchestra’s 1975 album Base Big Band. It’s a melody that goes through different emotions, sometimes intense and disturbing, before moving to softer tones.

Singer Lucinda Marley joined the action providing vocals for the well-known tunes honeysuckle rose and Sunny side of the Street.

honeysuckle rose was written by jazz great Fats Waller, with lyrics by Andy Razaf, over the years it has been recorded by many big names including Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaugan and Louis Armstrong. Marley’s rendition was simply delightful, as was her rendition Sunny side of the street.

cute was another fine example of the kind of music the Count Basie Orchestra played, lively, fast and giving spots for different band members to shine. Throughout the set, there were highlights from pianist Valentina Macias, bassist Finn McKibbin, drummer Jack Nankivell and many more.

The work of Charles Mingus was first highlighted via a performance by Haitian fight songwhich first appeared on the artist’s album in 1957 The clown. Mingus described the song as being a song about “prejudice, hatred and persecution, and how unfair it is”.

The tune gives bassist Finn McKibbin a moment to show off his skills, while swirling horns and wild screams quickly dominate the proceedings, with an epic tune that takes listeners on a journey.

After the death of saxophonist Lester Young in 1959, Mingus wrote an elegy for his friend titled Farewell pig hat. It was an excellent choice, a slow and painful elegy that provided a great contrast to the more upbeat numbers.

Singer Lucinda Marley returned to the stage for a rousing rendition of In every life, rain must fall.

After a short hiatus, the show returned with a change of musicians, moving from the younger musicians of the Monday Night Orchestra to the slightly older members of the Tuesday Night Crew.

They were joined by singer Sofie Kerr, (top photo), who delivered Don’t be like that followed by Tea for two. Kerr had an impeccable voice that could be heard clearly above the powerful orchestra.

The celebration continued with the Flight of Foo Birds, first recorded on the 1958 release of Count Basie The Atomic M. Bassie. A second song written by Neal Hefti followed, Teddie the toad debuted on the same album.

Kerr came back to play Act that I do, and stayed for Nostalgia in Times Square, his voice becoming an additional instrument in the complex and captivating composition of Mingus.

Perth is well known for its plethora of jazz talent, and with these talented young musicians waiting in the wings, the future looks very bright.

Graeme Watson

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Henry R. Wright