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Behind the Scenes of the Jazz Orchestra

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Over the Winter Term, the GNS Jazz Orchestra worked hard to prepare a performance of “Basie Straight Ahead.” Students spent time studying the music of the great Count Basie, as well as the stylings of all of the musicians who played in the Basie Orchestra over the years. 

The students spent months trying to capture the sound of the band, as well as the sounds of the individual soloists within the band, while appreciating the culture of those performers. The students then recorded six songs; three from the pre-war period and three from the 1950s. 

“Stuff that I really like about Jazz Orchestra and Count Basie specifically is that his type of music is really explosive for the drums and I get to really flex all my skills,” said Jason Ye ’23, drums. “For me, it’s a lot about playing what you feel is right and that’s what I really like about jazz. A lot of it is feeling what you think is right and playing it.” 

Leading up to the performance, the band members researched Count Basie and listened to much of his music to help them capture the sound and style.

“They have a special sound, every jazz band has a certain style,” explained Lily Kang ’23, tenor saxophone. “It’s very challenging playing them but it’s very fun.” 

Lily has four solos, so practicing them has been a challenge for her. 

“They are fast pieces, and the rhythm is hard to catch, so I spent a lot of time practicing,” she added. “I’m really excited for the performance. I’ve been practicing and I like the pieces, and playing with the Jazz Orchestra.” 

Finlay Walker-Cutt ’23, trumpet, says it’s been fun learning the music of Count Basie and his band, but it has had its difficult moments. 


“We have been working on a large variety of pieces. Some are quite difficult, but they are all quite fun to play,” he said. “Especially, when you look at some of the solo parts you can see where each musician of his older band put their creative spin, and trends you notice they did and pick up on.” 

From the range of songs the audience will hear, Finlay says his favourite is “Lil’ Darlin’.” 

“I get to do a big long solo in the middle, and it’s a very slow, smooth song, and it sounds really beautiful when we play it,” he said. 

Great job to the Jazz Orchestra for putting on such a lovely show!