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Jazz Review
Artist: Count Basie Orchestra
Performance date: July 30, 1999
Publication: New York Post

New York Post; New York; Jul 30, 1999; CHIP DEFFAA;

Copyright New York Post Corporation Jul 30, 1999

THE greatest big band working today, the Count Basie Band (now directed by Grover Mitchell), enlivens the Blue Note through Sunday. In terms of cohesiveness, spirit, ability to carry off its particular, blues-based repertoire with panache, this band is in a class by itself.

There is so much to admire: the massive, relaxed power the band projects as it eases into a classic arrangement like "Everyday I Have the Blues"; the unusually confident, off-hand grace with which everything is executed (even the trickiest of passages feel easy); and the frequent, surprising shifts in dynamics.

Oh, the way those trumpets squeeze out bright, sassy accents amid the subtle, muted ensemble work of Frank Wess' "Segue in C" and unleash unexpected explosions in "Splanky."

This week's generous, 90-minute show is dedicated to the late master jazz singer Joe Williams. And if the two vocalists on the bill, earnest Chris Morrell (who's grown stronger since joining the band) and the more relaxed, witty Marlena Shaw, don't quite add up to Williams in terms of authority, they know the territory well. It's fun hearing them together.

Blue Note, 131 W. Third St., (212) 475-8592; $37.50 cover, $5 minimum; 9 and 11:30 p.m.. Through Sunday.


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