Jamie Davis with Members of the Count Basie Band
January 8, 2006, at the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco


It was a fancy affair. Musicians were all dressed in tuxes. The ticket price was $65, but it includes a reception, the concert, and a CD/DVD package. The performers were leaders in their own rights. We recognized Fred Berry, Allen Smith, Wayne Wallace, and Roger Glenn. There were arrangers/composers like Aaron Lington. Conductor/pianist Shelly Berg was also one of arrangers. A few educators such as Scotty Barnhardt and Fred Berry were also present. Sonny Buxton, who hosts a radio show on KCSM every Saturday, was the MC.

 The Basie sound was apparent, with constant rhythm guitar strumming accompanied by a walking bass, and most of the pieces have refreshing arrangements with interesting sounds. Unfortunately, big-band music does not allow long solos from any individual, and I would really like to have heard more of Allen Smith's silky trumpet (photo above).

 Jamie Davis came on the stage after the band under the leadership of Shelly Berg played "Buckets," "Sweet and Lovely," and Berg's own "Don't Mess with the Blues." He danced with the beat when he conducted and danced in his seat when he played the piano.

After Davis thanked everybody in the house and acknowledged Mrs. Joe Williams in the audience, we finally got to hear him. He is billed as a baritone, but I hear more bass. His voice is booming, big, fat, thick, warm, and resonant in the lower register. I can hear Joe Williams, Nat Cole, Johnny Hartman, and Lou Rawls in his tones.

The introduction to "Night and Day," arranged by Tom Hart, started with muted trumpets, then muted trombones. These horns also supported the woodwinds with a repeated phrase at the interlude. The arrangement was beautiful.

"Blue Sky" found Davis dueting with the bass played by James Leary III before other instruments joined in. There was a wonderful saxophone solo. Roger Glenn came in on flute on "Now Is the Time." Davis was scatting in falsetto, while the soprano and alto saxophones were answering each other. The flute solo fueled the energy for the group. They got the audience clapping to the rhythm.

Fred Berry gave a muted trumpet solo in "Stormy Weather." "My Romance" was played in a fast walking pace. "My Funny Valentine" was so refreshing that the audience gave a standing ovation. "Everyday I Got the Blues" had Shelly Berg and Jamie Davis rocking on their feet simultaneously.

They played Aaron Lington's arrangement of Stevie Wonder's tune "Isn't She Lovely," where Roger Glenn played the congas and Scotty Bomhardt gave a muted trumpet solo. "Besame Mucho" arranged by Tom Hart, "I Got the World on a String," and "Alright, Okay, You Win" were pieces they performed that evening.

Davis communicated with the audience effectively. His voice is naturally rich, and he articulated with ease and accuracy. He was backed by an excellent band with exciting arrangements. The audience was appreciative and filled most of the good-size auditorium at the Palace of Fine Arts. They called for an encore and the band complied.

 Article by Stella Cheung Houston
Photos by Haybert K. Houston

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