Johnson County Community College
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Tyler Cundith, sports information director, ext. 3122

Legendary Count Basie Orchestra


Legendary Count Basie Orchestra

Photo of the Count Basie Orchestra

Basie's Orchestra returns to its birthplace

Scotty BarnhartOVERLAND PARK, Kan. – The Count Basie Orchestra, one of the greatest and most important jazz orchestras in history, will play at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 27, in Yardley Hall at Johnson County Community College.

Tickets, which are $35 and $25, are available through the JCCC Box Office at 913-469-4445 or online at

Scotty Barnhart, who was appointed as director in September, now leads the 18-member orchestra. Barnhart discovered his passion for music at an early age while being raised in Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. christened him. He has been a featured trumpet soloist with the Count Basie Orchestra for the last 20 years.

William "Count" Basie (1904-1984) founded the orchestra in 1935. He was born in Red Bank, N.J., and began his early playing days by working as a silent movie pianist and organist. Eventually, he began working with the Theater Owners Booking Agency circuit. In 1927, he found himself stranded in Kansas City, Mo., and there is where he began to explore his love of the blues and meet his future bandmates.

In the 1920s and '30s, Kansas City was ground zero for the heady mixture of blues, 4/4 swing rhythms and hot instrumentalists that were to become the standard bearers and precursors for the swing era and the underlying rhythm of modern jazz.

Walter Page’s Blue Devils and Bennie Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra caught Basie’s attention and soon he was playing with both and serving as second pianist and arranger for Moten. In 1935, Moten died and it was left to Basie to take some of the musicians from that orchestra and form his own, The Count Basie Orchestra.

The basic fundamentals of Basie's orchestra were and still are foot stomping 4/4 swing, an unparalleled use of dynamic contrasts, shouting the blues at any tempo and just making you want to dance.

The orchestra has won 18 Grammy awards and still tours the world.