JAZZ REVIEW : Count Basie Band Latest in a Fine Tradition

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The Count Basie Band, under the direction of Frank Foster, is one of the best in the land--which it proved once again Monday Night at the Vine Street Bar and Grill.

There has been only one change in personnel since the band’s appearance here last summer. Stability is one of its virtues, along with a lineup of outstanding soloists and a library of classic music by the likes of Neal Hefti, Ernie Wilkins and the band’s leader Frank Foster.

Thanks to the room’s first-rate acoustics, the band never overwhelmed the audience. Such perennials as the Wilkins arrangement of Freddie Green’s “Corner Pocket” and Hefti’s “Li’l Darlin’ ” have the same impact today as in the 1950s.


The eight-man brass team roared its conviction in such newer works as “Hampton Strut” and “One Frank on a Roll.”

Scotty Barnhart, the new trumpeter, made out nicely, and trombonist Clarence Banks, in Foster’s “Clanky,” used his plunger-mute to good effect on a chart that also featured the saxes doubling on three flutes, piccolo and bass clarinet.

All the sax soloists were impressive, with the best constructed solo coming from David Glasser in a blazing blues build-up.

The rhythm section, as always, was coherent and compelling, with George Caldwell on piano, Charlton Johnson playing rhythm guitar, Cleveland Eaton on bass and Dave Gibson on drums. Chris Morrell closed the set with a series of pleasant vocals--two blues and two pop standards.

Foster is an amiable frontman and a consistently fine tenor sax soloist.

Since he took over its leadership in 1986, he has played a vital part in keeping the band intact and invincible.