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Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra to swing into Bloomington for Basie tribute

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- They'll be boogying in Bloomington on Saturday night, August 14, when the renowned Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra debuts a performance dedicated strictly to the music of William "Count" Basie and his orchestra.

The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra is the orchestra-in-residence at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Led by its artistic and musical director, Indiana University Distinguished Professor of Music David Baker, the SJMO will celebrate the centennial of Basie's birth during its 8 p.m. performance at the IU Auditorium. The concert will conclude the IU School of Music's 2004 Summer Festival.

"Basie was very much a sage," Baker said. "He was wise and he knew about the business of music. He was one of those people with an impeccable sense of the fact that this music we call jazz has always been connected to dance. And he was so brilliant at always being able to pick the right dance tempo." Basie is considered one of the most important bandleaders of the swing era and his influence can be heard in the big bands that continue to perform today.

The concert will span the entire history of the Count Basie Band, which began in 1935 and continued under Basie's guidance (with the exception of a few years in the early 1950s) until the bandleader's death in 1984. The Bloomington audience will hear "a panoramic, aural presentation of the Basie bands," Baker said, stressing the plural "bands." He explained that Basie's band went through several changes throughout the years, adding and subtracting musicians as it traveled from Kansas City to New York City and, later, to major cities all over the world.

"We have the advantage of being able to play the whole history of the music," Baker said. "We'll be playing music that really traverses a wide path."

He added, "This is really a labor of love. This band loves Basie. He is one of our icons."

Since Basie had singers with him all the time, the orchestra will be joined by vocalist and Indianapolis native Everett Greene. Greene has performed

as a featured vocalist or guest artist with many leading jazz, blues and gospel artists, including both Basie and Baker. He has also performed at many of the nation's top jazz festivals.

The SJMO, which was founded in 1990 to recognize the importance of jazz in American culture, re-creates big band jazz as its composers and arrangers intended it to be played, stripping away intervening changes and alterations. The orchestra has rediscovered old classics, premiered new discoveries and, more recently, begun premiering new works. Composed of 18 musicians from across the United States, the orchestra regularly performs the music of Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie and many other jazz masters. The New Yorker has called the SJMO "the best jazz repertory band in the country," and the New York Times has described the orchestra as "culturally important ... spectacular musically."

Baker is chairman of the Jazz Studies Department in the School of Music and one of the nation's leading jazz composers and educators. A veteran of the bands of George Russell, Quincy Jones, Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson and Lionel Hampton, he is the author of over 70 books on jazz. Baker, who was elected to the Down Beat Jazz Education Hall of Fame in 1994, said the SJMO's objective is "to nurture the things that are coming and also to preserve the things that have been."

Tickets for the performance can be bought in advance at the IU Auditorium and Auer Hall box offices, open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets also can be bought at any Ticket Master outlet, online at or by phone at 812-333-9955. The IU Auditorium Box Office will also be open three hours before the show.

For high-resolution photos of this extraordinary ensemble, visit All photos courtesy of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.

To learn more about the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, visit