red lights


Battle of the Big bands

Chicago Jazz Orchestra vs the Count Basie Orchestra
Grant Park
Chicago, IL
Aug. 28, 2006
the Count Basie Orchestra
The Count Basie Orchestra
Cityscape from Millennium Park

Story and photos by Brad Walseth

While not officially a part of the 2006 Chicago Jazz Fest, the week began with a bang with the free concert Monday night at 6:30 p.m. at Millennium Park's Jay Pritzker Pavillion. The final concert in the Chicago Cultural Center's "Made in Chicago: World Class Jazz" series, this event featured the Chicago Jazz Orchestra and the Count Basie Orchestra recreating the historic big band battle of 1961 between Duke Ellington and Count Basie.

Under a steady drizzle, both bands started out well, with the Basie veterans taking the early lead over their younger counterparts - who seemed somewhat in awe of the seasoned older statesmen, but then Eric Scheider started hitting all the notes on his tenor sax solos and it spurred the CJO on to greater heights. With many in the audience jitterbugging (mostly due to the swinging rhythms, but partly to keep warm), Basie's boys countered with wonderous singer Melba Joyce, while the Chicagoans brought out their secret weapon in singer Everett Greene - who took the audience back to the heyday of the Southside jazz clubs with his impressive appeareance.

In the end, the energy and drive of the CJO, along with their hard-hitting and intricate arrangements (Charlie Parker's "Red Cross" was a standout) won the day. While it may be said the CJO pulled out a hard fought win, the real winners were the fans who braved the elements to attend this memorable event.

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