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Frank Foster & the Count Basie Orchestra


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1996 Count Basie Orchestra Concert


Frank Foster - tenor and soprano saxophonist, flautist, arranger, and composer - was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1928. In 1949, he moved to Detroit, and joined the local jazz scene, playing with Wardell Gray and other musicians.

Foster's musical career was interrupted when he was drafted into the US Army in 1951. After finishing his military service in 1953 he joined Count Basie's big band.

Foster became an integral part of the band, as he arranged and composed several popular standards, including “Shiny Stockings”, “Down for the Count”, “Blues Backstage”, “Back to the Apple”, “Discommotion”, and “Blues in Hoss Flat.”

From 1970 to 1972 Foster played with Elvin Jones, and in 1972 and 1975 with the Thad Jones–Mel Lewis big band. In 1971, Foster was named Artist in Residence at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, and became a teacher for the New York City Public School System in Harlem.

Foster was part of a team of six professional musicians assigned to the Federal Government’s Title I Program: Cultural Enrichment Through Music, Dance, and Song. He went on to become a full-time Assistant Professor in the Black Studies Program at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

In June 1986 Foster succeeded Thad Jones as leader of the Count Basie Orchestra. While leading the Basie Orchestra, Foster received two Grammies: first for his big band arrangement of the Diane Schuur composition "Deedles’ Blues", and second for his arrangement of guitarist/vocalist George Benson’s composition "Basie’s Bag."

In 1995, Foster left the band and resumed his leadership of three musical groups: The Non-Electric Company (a jazz quartet/quintet), Swing Plus (a 12-piece band), and The Loud Minority Big Band (an 18-piece concert jazz orchestra), each of which he had organized years earlier.

Foster suffered a stroke in 2001 that impaired his left side enough that he could no longer play the saxophone. He continued composing and arranging until his death on July 26, 2011.

Video features Frank Foster on tenor sax and arranger. With Manny Boyd-lead alto, Brad Leali-alto, Doug Lawrence-lead tenor, Doug Miller-tenor, John Williams-bari, Mel Wanzo-lead trombone, Clarence Banks-trombone, Alvin Walker-trombone, Bill Hughes-bass trombone, Mike Williams-lead trumpet, Bob Ojeda-trumpet, Melton Mustafa-trumpet, Scotty Barnhart-trumpet, Terence Conley-piano, Will Matthews-guitar, James Leary-bass, Rich Thompson-drums.

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