The Count Basie Orchestra at Anthology in San Diego

Friday, February 5, 2010 12:57
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By Jamie Freedman | SF Music Examiner

Saturday night I was down in San Diego for work and wanted to take my 16-year-old cousin out for a nice evening. Going to the movies didn’t seem special and she’s not the kind of kid I would take to an all-ages punk show. And lets face it, I didn’t want to go to a punk show either. I saw that Anthology is all-ages and that the Count Basie Orchestra was rocking the house for two nights. This legendary Kansas City big band is swinging towards San Francisco and will be performing on May 30th at Davies Hall with Kurt Elling as part of the SFJAZZ spring season.

Celebrating their 75th anniversary, the Basie Band has never sounded better. It’s obvious from the smiles, the goofiness, mutual encouragement and choreography (the trumpet section has it down) that these guys thoroughly enjoy themselves on stage. And with songs titles like “Fun Time,” “Way Out Basie,” Right On Right On” and “Cute” a good time is guaranteed.

Some members of the Basie Band are new, yet the majority of the sound still swings from musicians handpicked by Count Basie himself. I would guess that at least 75 percent of the band is over 50 years old. Bill Hughes is the current director and has been in the band since 1953. That’s pretty incredible if you ask me. Basie hired singer Carmen Bradford in 1982 by when she was 22.

“It was like traveling with your grandpa and great-grandpa,” she said from stage, “but they swing just as hard.”

Anthology is a “classy” (my 16-year-old cousin’s description) establishment unlike any other club I’ve ever been to. The way it’s designed with its stacked four level seating reminds me of theaters and opera houses of past centuries. Everyone in the club has a good seat. And if you’re not quite close enough to see details and the faces of performers, there is a gigantic screen above the stage.

On the tables was a flier (also on their website) congratulating a wide range of 2010 Grammy Nominated artists that have performed on Anthology’s stage including pop acts Death Cab for Cutie and Jason Mraz, jazz acts like Kurt Elling and Jake Shimabukuro and gospel/R&B singer Mavis Staples. With variety like that and the opportunity to come by on Tuesday nights for $5 and check out the Anthology House Band where everything on the menu is $20 or less, this is the perfect all-ages venue for an nice evening out.

Via SF Music Examiner