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Legendary Count Visits EMU

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Legendary Count Visits EMU

By Constance Crump


Taking the cosmic view is easy when you’ve got six decades of experience. Count Basie has a grasp of the musical cosmos so awesome that to call him a legendary jazz great is almost to demean his accomplishments.

Tonight, our Royal Highness of Jazz brings his “swingingest of Swing bands” to EMU’s Pease Auditorium for a concert as part of Eastern’s Homecoming festivities, presented by the Office of Campus Life.

Basie was born in 1904 in Red Bank, New Jersey. He got his first musical training at his mother’s knee and later studied organ with Fats Waller. A vaudeville accompanist in the Twenties, he joined the Benny Moten Big Band in the Thirties. Moten’s death in 1935 was Basie’s entree to band leadership and a great leap for mankind.

SOME CRITICS claim the Big Band Era is over. Basie couldn’t disagree more: “We may be fewer in number, but we’re still drawing tremendous crowds, especially overseas. Our audiences range from the very young to the very old.”

“An important trend in music today is the number of superb young musicians our schools and colleges are graduating, i” he continues. The continuing supply of good musicians enables him to maintain the group’s distinctive sound, a steady rhythm, rich saxophones, crisp trumpets.

Basie’s own piano style has been described as minimalist. One critic, calling him abstemious, deft and gracious, said “his silences are more potent than most folks’ screams.” Another said, “Nobody in jazz has been less of a showman than Count Basie; nobody has behaved more effortlessly.”

AS A COMPOSER and arranger, his abilities have been topped by none and equalled by few. In 20th Century jazz, only Duke Ellington has attained recognition, both critical and popular, approaching Basie’s. A case could be made for Basie and Ellington as our century’s Bach and Beethoven, although only posterity will tell.

“We Americans continue to initiate new musical eras for the rest of the world just as we’ve done in the past,” Basie says. “There’s been ragtime, jazz and now rock - but to me, they’re all the same thing. The only difference is that we, as musicians, dress up the music in various ways.”

Tickets for the 8 p.m. concert are $10.50 and $12 with reduced rates for students and senior citizens. Tickets may be purchased at the Office of Campus Lite Box Office on Eastern’s campus. For information call 487-3045.