Jazz fusion: Reinventing Count Basie

Vesh Arumugam, ECU Reporter

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Count Basie’s remarkable legacy can undoubtedly be remembered by the swinging hit, One O’Clock Jump. The song written in 1937, was an instant hit for jazz lovers and jitterbugs alike.

WAAPA is playing homage to the tune with the upcoming event, One O’Clock Jump, starring a jazz vocal ensemble.

This swinging musical journey will feature old and new interpretations of Count Basie and Duke Ellington classics as performed by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, New York Voices, The Idea of North and many more.

The music director for the ensemble, Victoria Newton, spoke to ECU Daily about the performance.

“There are 13 boys on vocals and they are undergoing vigorous rehearsals,” said Newton.

The song selections for the ensemble are inspired by famous jazz bands in ’60s such as The Manhattan Transfer. The Manhattan Transfer was a famous Brazilian jazz vocal band founded in 1969, which won a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance in 1981.

Newton has made some wonderful rearrangements to the vocals for One O’Clock Jump.

She, who is also a jazz vocal lecturer at WAAPA, said that the ensemble is different from the other performances that have been done before this.

“We have acapella, gospel and contemporarised hippy jazz songs on that night,” said Newton.

She finds the idea of reinventing jazz music by incorporating other styles such as contemporary, exciting and hopes it will attract young audiences.

Jazz is stereotyped as the “old folks’ genre”, but Newton believes it could gain the attention of younger audiences by “rearranging the old into new”.

Michelle Smith,  a jazz harpist in Perth, said that the ways to get younger people into jazz is by introducing the mixture of jazz that has been fused into modern production and the styles of neo soul/rnb.

“Hiatus Kaiyote is a great example of younger musicians using their knowledge in jazz and combining it into a more of a song based concept,” said Smith.

According to the Director of The Music Trust, Dr Richard Letts, despite their many talents the employment prospects for jazz musicians were  pretty dire.

“We can think of only a few players whom we know to make a good living. Everyone else lives hand to mouth unless they have an income from non-jazz sources such as taxi-driving or school-teaching,” said Letts.

Smith said that jazz music is widely celebrated in Perth. “I feel that jazz could always be more celebrated anywhere, but we do have more places now popping up for live jazz.”

Australia, among other countries worldwide, was introduced to jazz following the musical sensation created in New York, USA in 1917-18 by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and its immediate imitators.

To meet demand for the new music promoters in Australia, established American ‘jazz’ bands from California were imported.

These hot dance bands brought the more established forms of jazz music to an eager Australian dancing and theatre public, encouraged imitators and employed local musicians.

Newton said the public could “expect a little bit of humour and quirky songs” at the event.

The performance is on 20 September, tickets and information available from the WAAPA website.



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