The immortal Count Basie orchestra this week, cooking up a storm at the 1961 Juan-les-Pins Festival in Antibes, France and captured for posterity by the ORTF and rebroadcast just recently by Radio France Musique. Joining in the festivities were Lambert,Hendricks & Ross, one of the most popular Jazz singing groups of the late 50s and early 60s. LHR had a huge following among Jazz aficionados; their tight harmonies and scat-singing made them instantly recognizable to audiences and they became a worldwide phenomenon. Albeit, a short one.
This concert catches them pretty much at the zenith of their careers. By 1962 Annie Ross would quit the group and by 1964 the group dissolved. But in that short period of time they created enough waves and made enough influence to set the standard for Jazz group singing for years to come.
The Basie band goes without saying. The 1961 period was a continuation of the legacy. Basie and cohort played at one of five of JFK’s Inaugural balls – further cementing the notion that Count Basie was an American institution.
In addition to the Basie band and Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, O.C. Smith joins the band early-on in the concert to round out what is a memorable appearance of some of the greats of the Jazz world all on one stage at one of the big Jazz festivals in France which had begun only a year earlier and quickly became the must-see/must-play destination for Jazz artists ever since.
If, for some strange reason, you’ve never heard Lambert, Hendricks & Ross before, by all means, check this one out – they were an extremely talented group of singers who brought nuance and color to the vocal side of Jazz. And if, for some even more bizarre reason, you’ve never heard Count Basie before – he was one of the stalwarts, the cornerstones of Jazz. Together with the likes of Duke Ellington and many others, shaped the future of Jazz, taking it to new heights and new areas.
Don’t ignore Jazz because you aren’t familiar with it, or because there’s some stigma that prevents you from checking it out. It’s an essential part of a heritage and a beautiful form of expression that will only add to your life and experience.
Take a minute and hit Play. And then go explore.