By Ian Murray
Audiences at West Ranch High School were treated to a sold out performance by the renowned Count Basie Orchestra early December.
West Ranch’s own jazz band delivered a well received opening performance before the legendary swing band took the stage.
The Basie Orchestra, which began its 82nd year as an active touring group, is in the middle of a coast to coast tour of the United States before they record their next album.
The current line up of the group includes members who performed with the late Basie himself in the past, such as vocalist Carmen Bradford, and trombonist Clarence Banks as well as bandleader and Jazz scholar Scotty Barnhart.
Additionally, the group includes Santa Clarita resident Ray Nelson II in the hot seat behind the drum kit, where the 22 year old prodigy delivered a blistering solo during the first set.
I spoke after the show with saxophonist Doug Miller about his almost 30 years of experience with the group. Miller reflected on the challenges of playing in such a large ensemble, and some of his best memories with the group.
“The main challenge is to blend with the group. There are thirteen horns, so we all basically have to think as one.” Miller explains. Although this task can often prove daunting, Miller states that after playing every show in a ten week tour, the practice becomes second nature.
Playing with the Basie Orchestra for so long has given Miller many rare and exciting opportunities. The most treasured of these was his opportunity to embark on a ten week tour with the legendary Dizzy Gillespie in the early nineties.
“It was a truly incomparable experience,” Miller states, his eyes gleaming with passion “In the bus with them, it was like being a little kid again.”
The Count Basie Orchestra’s tour will culminate in a one month residency at New York City’s Blue Note jazz club, after which the group will record their first album since the 2015 release “A Very Swingin’ Basie Christmas”.