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Bennett and Basie Together



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Bennett and Basie Together
Program Description

Last November Tony Bennett and Count Basie performed in concert at Berklee Performance Center, and one night in January the singer returned to Boston for a duet with pianist Dave McKenna in the Copley Plaza Hotel's Plaza Bar.

The Basie band, still swinging majestically after all these years, opens with the road-running "Jumpin' at the Woodside," featuring several closeups of the leader's subtle mugging and a steaming duel between tenor saxophonists Kenny Hing and Eric Dixon.

After a teasingly, typically sparse piano intro, the band follows up with a muted-horn chorus on Frank Foster's "Shiny Stockings," scorching ensemble segments and eruptive drum breaks by Greg Fields.

A humorous interplay of Basie's piano with Cleveland Eaton's rapid bass runs is climaxed by the band's exploding into a final chorus behind trombonist Bootie Wood's vigorous plunger-mute blowing on "Bootie's Blues."

After Sonny Cohn's trumpet solo (note his winsome quote from "A Christmas Song"), there are a couple of "one-more-time" codas tacked on to "April in Paris" as the trumpets finally clamp the lid with a snippet from "Jingle Bells."

Guitarist Freddie Greene's "solo" spot, actually a single-chord strum at the end of Basie's loquacious pianistics, is old hat by now for most Basie watchers, but the bit apparently hasn't yet run out of audience. The band set, embellished with excellent camera work, concludes with the cyclonic "Wind Machine."

The scene shifts to the leathery posh Plaza Bar, where McKenna plays Bennett on with "The Best Is Yet To Come." The singer is conspicuously more successful on such ballads as "When Joanna Loves Me," in which he is fancifully complemented by McKenna's right-hand responses, and "The Very Thought of You," in which the singer's concentration on the melody is not subject to the wild license he assumes on up-tempo tunes. On the latter, a none-too-subtle swerving of the melody and an aversion to artful phrasing give each rendition a tiresome sameness ("I Love You," "Just One of Those Things" and "Makin' That Scene").

McKenna's distinctive keyboard style, featuring his rolling left- hand bass lines and idea-laden right-hand, is often Bennett's best friend. Also, the pianist's easy control and vari-shaded harmonics enrich such standards as "Just One of Those Things." When the cameras focus on the singer and Basie back at Berklee, Bennett is heard on "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," which he recorded 20 years ago, and bridging that tune with "I Wanna Be Around" before reprising "San Francisco" - a guaranteed blue-chip coupling.

On "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and "I'm Just a Lazy So-And- So," the bandleader fingers an infectiously lean solo against which he counterpoints ingratiating facial reactions to Bennett's vocalizing. Bennett takes his segment with Basie to a roaring windup on "It Don't Mean a Thing" and rejoins McKenna at the Copley Plaza to conclude the program with "All the Things You Are" in a warm, sensitive manner.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Performance for a Live Audience
Chicago: “Bennett and Basie Together,” 12/04/1982, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed October 24, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_7FCF9CA7D7104D25A9EE5577316260FE.
MLA: “Bennett and Basie Together.” 12/04/1982. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. October 24, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_7FCF9CA7D7104D25A9EE5577316260FE>.
APA: Bennett and Basie Together. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_7FCF9CA7D7104D25A9EE5577316260FE
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