The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra has been around for a long time. We’re talking serious history here, people. With its beginnings in 1935, in Kansas City, Missouri, and an illustrious career that’s still going, the Count Basie Orchestra has musical connections that are firmly intertwined with several bands and musicians in the Big Band era and beyond. The myriad — and surprising — connections, influences and collaborations require some investigation.
Say you’re looking at the Seattle Symphony’s 2012–2013 season brochure, and you come across the Pops series. The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, which comes to Benaroya Hall in April 2013, strikes your fancy. How does Tommy Dorsey intersect with the Count Basie Orchestra? In 1939 Tommy Dorsey himself asked the classic crooner Frank Sinatra to join his ensemble. This move proved fortuitous for Mr. Sinatra, who gained much from increased public visibility. Years later, Ella Fitzgerald was a guest on The Frank Sinatra Show.
And who else collaborated with Ella Fitzgerald but the Count Basie Orchestra? They recorded together on the 1957 album, One O’Clock Jump.
Ok, how about this: You came to the Seattle Symphony’s Celebrate Asia concert in February 2012. You loved ONE, a piece composed by Seattle composer and trumpeter Cuong Vu that features lightning-fast trumpet runs. How does this intersect with the Count Basie Orchestra? Thing is, Cuong Vu composed this for the Seattle Symphony’s Sonic Evolution concert in October 2011, which featured several compositions in homage to noteworthy Seattle musicians. ONE is a tribute to Quincy Jones (who attended Garfield High School — Go Bulldogs!), who has an extensive list of musical achievements, from producing Michael Jackson’s Thriller to doing arrangements for Ella and Basie!, the 1963 studio album featuring Ella Fitzgerald and … the Count Basie Orchestra!!!
Because it’s Friday, let’s get a little weird. How can you connect the Count Basie Orchestra to actress Diana Lynn and a messy but lovable chimp? They were featured in the 1951 comedy Bedtime for Bonzo, alongside a man who would eventually become President of the U.S.: Ronald Reagan. And guess who played at Reagan’s inauguration? Yep: the Count Basie Orchestra. (For the sake of political balance, we should add that the Count Basie Orchestra played at JFK’s inauguration as well.) Red or blue, we can all count on the Count.
Liven up your weekend by seeing the Legendary Count Basie Orchestra bring its Big Band energy to Benaroya Hall — tickets are available tonight, tomorrow and Sunday. Read more and get your tickets here. We’ll leave you with one of our CBO favorites, “Corner Pocket.”
It’s easy to get down on days like this. If you’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for long, you know this is just the beginning. Rain, wind, highs of 48 and lows of 40. Months of it. Sometimes, it even makes us want to write power ballads.
But even on days like today, when the wind’s a-whippin’ and it’ll inevitably take some of us four hours to get from Seattle to the airport, there’s a lot that we at the Symphony are thankful for:
1: Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, Beethoven’s “Eroica,” Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Philip Glass’s Violin Concerto No. 1…. We’re here because we love great music — music that, as critic Alex Ross says, “persuades us that there is no other music in the world.”
Tonight’s Classical KING FM Seattle Symphony Spotlightgets a bit personal — in a good way. Listen in on 98.1 as Seattle Symphony Executive Director Simon Woods (originally from England) gives an insider’s perspective of the Orchestra’s November 17 and 19 concerts, which feature works by British composers Edward Elgar, Oliver Knussen (who will also conduct the entire program) and Luke Bedford.
British composer and conductor Oliver Knussen (Photo: Clive Barda)
Knussen will conduct virtuoso violinist Leila Josefowicz and the Seattle Symphony in a performance of his own Violin Concerto, Op. 30. A taste of the backstory: while Vice President of Artistic Planning and Operations at The Philadelphia Orchestra, Woods was one of the original commissioners of the piece.
This week’s concerts will have a very British feel to them, and we say that’s a good thing. In addition to the Elgar, Knussen and Bedford program on Thursday and Saturday, on Sunday the Symphony presents a chamber concert that features several works by Knussen alongside works by Elgar and Brahms.
It’s a unique opportunity to witness the past, present and future of British music. From Elgar, who was the first major English composer in over two and a half centuries; to Britten, who was a key member of the early 20th century’s English renaissance; to Knussen, who is a well-established British conductor and composer; to rising star Luke Bedford; we’re excited to celebrate the ongoing lineage of British symphonic music.
(Knussen evidently carries on the tradition of British wit as well. Read his interview with Seattle Times arts writer Michael Upchurch here.)
Tonight through Sunday, hear the music made famous by one of the world’s greatest stars, the very nearly inimitable BARBRA STREISAND. Seattle Symphony, led by Principal Pops Conductor Marvin Hamlisch, backs vocalist Julie Budd in a concert of Barbra’s greatest hits.
Because this concert will define EPIC, we’ve collected the Top 10 Reasons We Love Barbra Streisand. Don’t lie; you know you agree with every single one.
10.My Life with Barbra, the (unauthorized) tale of Barbra’s rise to stardom, written by a most unlikely character: Barbra’s erstwhile boyfriend, Barry Dennen, whose snaky portrayal of Pontius Pilate in Norman Jewison’s film version of Jesus Christ Superstar captivates cinephiles to this day.
9. James Brolin. Barbra + James = lovey-dovey lovebirds forever and ever! Extra points for JimBro: He portrayed the film version of Pee-wee Herman in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. “I’m a loner, Dottie; a rebel.”
8. This picture.
Yes, that’s Barry Gibb.
7. The Barbra Streisand song by DJ Duck Sauce. The beauty part? You can make your own custom Barbra Streisand song at gobarbra.com. We made one for Marvin Hamlisch. Did you hear that, Seattle spinners?
6. Stage fright. Barbra’s legendary jitters are endearing, especially in this clip from the Judy Garland Show, wherein she is charged to “belt it out” alongside two titans of the stage and screen, Ethel Merman and Judy G. herself:
5. 1970s-style screwball comedy. Barbra is funny, indeed. Have you seen What’s Up, Doc? Laugh a minute.
4. Sailor suits — which, in turn, inspire dolls.
3. She does it all. Barbra produces, directs, writes and stars in her own films. A real Renaissance woman, no?
2. Funny Girl. Only one of the greatest movie musicals ever made, featuring Babs as famed comedienne Fanny Brice. We’ll never rain on your parade, Barbra, cross our heart and hope to die.
It’s here! The live recording of Brandi Carlile performing with Seattle Symphony, recorded at Benaroya Hall in November 2010. Paste Magazine deems the record No. 1 in its list of must-hear May albums. Snap!
Brandi is pretty proud of the collaboration, too. She tells Richmond Magazine, “I would say that album — it’s a tough thing to say, because we’ve made albums with T-Bone Burnett and Rick Rubin, and our album-making process has been really huge and intense and special — but I would say this live album with the Benaroya Hall symphony orchestra is the thing that we’ve done that we’re most proud of, because at the end of the day, we’re a live band, and this really is unadulterated, exactly who we are.”
Hear Caspar Babypants in concert at 11am (tickets are $10 and benefit Seattle Symphony’s education programs). Then, visit Soundbridge from noon to 4pm for all kinds of fun activities. See what Fox Q13′s Arts Around has to say about the big birthday bash (scroll to the 2:00 mark).
On Saturday, April 23, we’re throwing a birthday party for Soundbridge, Seattle Symphony’s interactive music discovery center. Seattle-based kids music favorite Caspar Babypants will join the celebration in concert at Benaroya Hall. The Score goes “behind the Babypants” to get the pre-party scoop.
You may have guessed: Caspar Babypants isn’t his real name. Family, friends and fans know him as Chris Ballew, lead singer and basitarist of the Grammy-nominated rock group, The Presidents of the United States of America. The “Babypants” moniker is a holdover from his younger days. “I had changed my name to Caspar,” Ballew says, “and one winter, I wore a pair of babies’ pants on my head as a hat, so all the kids in the neighborhood just started calling me ‘Caspar Babypants.’”
When Ballew found his voice in making music for children and families, the name came back to him. “My whole life, I’ve been searching for a clear, simple, innocent sonic palette. … I finally found it, and it turns out that it’s kids music.”
Ballew has released three albums as Caspar Babypants, all of them recorded, produced and pressed at his backyard studio. His wife, artist Kate Endle, does the cover art.Even his kids — Josie, 10, and Augie, 13 — have gotten in on the act, singing backup on songs like “Little Broken Truck” and “Free Like a Bird.” His mission: to get his recordings into the hands and homes of parents with young children. Being new mom or dad can be stressful, he says. “I want to provide some kind of musical relief, so that parents and kids can sing these songs together. I want to be a piece of the puzzle in making people happy, and helping them enjoy their time together.”
Ballew began piano lessons at age four, and “was lucky to have a mother who took [him] to the opera and the symphony” — a foundation that has been incredibly influential to his current mode of music-making. “My experiences with classical music as a kid have become essential to…how I write and think about music, and I think it’s important for everyone to experience to that character of music.”
Which is why he is so excited to take part in Soundbridge’s birthday bash, he says. That, and, “Because I get to play Benaroya Hall!”
Can’t say we blame him.
Since Soundbridge opened its doors in 2001, more than 150,000 people of all ages have listened, learned and explored. Join us on Saturday, April 23, at 11am for the Caspar Babypants concert (tickets are $10 and benefit Seattle Symphony’s education programs). Then, come down to Soundbridge for an afternoon of birthday activities, free!
Gather ’round the radio — Seattle Symphony is on KING FM!
Starting tonight, KING FM will broadcast live recordings of Seattle Symphony concerts every Wednesday at 8pm, through May 11. This is a great opportunity to hear Seattle Symphony from anywhere — all you need is a radio or an internet connection. We are so excited to share these concerts with the community. We hope that you’ll tune in to KING FM 98.1 or listen online at www.king.org!
That’s right: We’ve unveiled our upcoming season. The stage is set for Ludovic Morlot’s first season as Music Director. Hear great masterpieces, from Beethoven to Tchaikovsky, and French classics by Debussy, Berlioz and more. Listen to 20th-century powerhouses — from Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring to Holst’s The Planets and John Adams’ Doctor Atomic Symphony — and pop culture crossovers from Frank Zappa to Nico Muhly.
Want to know more about Morlot? Watch this:
And here’s a tour of the 2011–2012 season:
Enticed? Head straight to the subscriptions. If you’re a subscriber, you can renew online, quick and easy. If you’re new to the Symphony, you can buy your first subscription today — they start at as little as $48.