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“Simplicity and Celebration: An Appreciation of Count Basie” by Albert Murray
A Tale of Three Cities: Red Bank, Kansas City, New York
First Testament Band Roars Out of Kansas City
1938 Famous Door Photo Essay, Frank Driggs Collection
Basie in the 40's: Time of Transition
1944 Columbia Records Photo Essay, Frank Driggs Collection
Basie in the 50's: Sixteen Men Swinging-Again
Milt Hinton Photo Essay, Sound of Jazz, CBS Television, December 8,1957
Chuck Stewart Photo Essay: The Basie Band and Joe Williams, Roulette recording sessions, 1957
Chance meeting: The Count and Coltrane
Tad Hershorn Photo Essay: Ella Fitzgerald and Basie in San Antonio, 1979
Count Basie Virtual Jukebox
They Speak of Basie: Joe Williams, Freddie Green, Jay McShann, Oscar Peterson, Albert Murray, Helen Humes, Louie Bellson . . .
Suggested Recordings and Readings
Finale: Video of Count Basie at Montreux, 1977

 

IJS and Dana Digital Media Lab 2004

 

 


 

Twenty years after the fact, Skitch Henderson, guest conductor of the San Antonio Symphony, still joked about the reception accorded the Count Basie Orchestra and Ella Fitzgerald during a joint appearance in the Alamo City on a cold and rainy night in December 1979. “I think there were more people onstage than in the audience,” Henderson said around the time of a Fitzgerald American Masters broadcast on PBS in 1999. 
 
I suspected correctly that this would be the only opportunity to photograph these two jazz masters from the swing era together. The highlight was the rehearsal, where one could observe up close the personal and musical details of putting together a program. The main purpose of the rehearsal was literally to bring the San Antonio Symphony up to speed on the arrangements. They had arrived a few weeks before, and the orchestra had familiarized itself with the material. It was up to Fitzgerald’s musical director and accompanist Paul Smith and Henderson to set the tempos for the evening’s performance.
   
The Basie band needed no such prepping, given the regularity with which it and Fitzgerald played together during this period. (Excellent live examples can be found on two albums, Jazz at the Santa Monica Civic ’72, Pablo CD 2625701 [1991] and ‘79 Montreux album title A Classy Pair, Pablo CD 2312110 [from a July 1979 concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival].

 

 


If the orchestra expected a cursory run-through, they were treated instead to a private concert. Fitzgerald, an unpretentious perfectionist and workaholic who loved nothing more than to sing, held nothing back as she sang each number in its entirety with the exception of those she would perform with the Basie band only. The evening went just as smoothly, topper being a Jazz at the Philharmonic-style jam session finale with Fitzgerald going head to head with soloists from the Basie band. At one point during the show’s conclusion, the two stars joined together onstage as Basie lovingly applauded Fitzgerald and kept the coals of his big band red hot under her vocals.

There was no greater love, either on stage or among the select who had dragged themselves to the concert on that cold December night in Texas.


 

 

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