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Count Basie Orchestra Headlines 2023 High Country Jazz Festival 

 Legendary Ensemble Makes Appalachian Theatre Debut on June 9 

BOONE, NC – “We’re bringing 88 years of classic ‘Count Basie Jazz’ directly to you,” said Scotty Barnhart, director of The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra about their Appalachian Theatre debut performance that is headlining the 2023 High Country Jazz Festival. “I’ve programmed something from every decade of the orchestra’s existence that will feature each of the 19 artists on stage, including new charts added to your program that haven’t been played in years!”

The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra, directed by Barnhart, with guest vocalist Carmen Bradford, will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 9 at the Appalachian Theatre in Boone. It is one of 14 separate events in ten different locations throughout Boone and Blowing Rock that are part of the High Country Jazz Festival from June 9 through 11, 2023. Tickets are $37 and $45.   More than half of the 14 events are free of charge to the general public with tickets on sale for headliner performances via the festival website: www.highcountryjazzfestival.org

In the history of jazz music, there is only one bandleader who has the distinction of having his orchestra still performing sold out concerts all over the world, with members personally chosen by him, for over 30 years after his passing. Pianist and bandleader William James “Count” Basie was — and still is — an American institution that personifies the grandeur and excellence of Jazz. 

The Count Basie Orchestra, today directed by Scotty Barnhart, has won every respected jazz poll in the world at least once, captured 18 Grammy Awards, performed for kings, queens, and other world royalty, appeared in several movies and television shows, and played at every preeminent jazz festival and major concert hall in the world. 

Speaking “on the road” from their concert stop in Boston, Barnhart said that High Country audiences can expect several cuts from their 2022 Grammy Award-nominated album “The Count Basie Orchestra Live at Birdland,” which is, coincidentally, the next stop on their tour with a week-long engagement at the famous New York City jazz club. 

“We’re keeping it fresh for audiences old and new,” said Barnhart, “and particularly for the next generation of jazz enthusiasts who may be hearing the Count Basie sound for the very first time.”  Carmen Bradford is performing with the orchestra in Boone, “singing in the style of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and all the other jazz greats who have appeared with Count Basie since 1937.” Barnhart added, “In fact, Count Basie himself hired Carmen back in 1983, just one year before his passing.”  

The Count Basie concert is one of five events that same Friday, June 9.  The first begins at 11 a.m. with a conversation hosted by local jazz musician Todd Wright titled The Jazz Swing Feel: From Count Basie to Emmet Cohen.”  The Emmet Cohen Trio is another headliner during the 2023 festival, along with the Reggie Buie Group. The conversation will take place at the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum at no cost for BRAHM members, and admission is $8 for the public.  

Wright said, “I plan to link the Basie Orchestra with the Cohen trio through what we call the ‘jazz swing feel,’ the groundwork for which was laid by Louis Armstrong in the 1920s. Basie expanded upon that premise in the mid 30s by getting folks up and dancing to the music of the era. It’s an incredible lineage that continues today through such talented artists as Emmett Cohen performing ‘Live from Emmet’s Place in NYC’ on a weekly basis.” Wright is alluding to the eight lucky guests who gather at Cohen’s fifth-floor walk-up in Harlem while thousands more from around the world tune into livestreams of the event on Facebook and YouTube.

It is followed at 4 p.m. by a Jazz Cocktail Hour featuring Pavel Wlosok, head of the jazz program at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, at the panoramic rooftop lounge of the Horton Hotel, 611 West King Steet in Boone. Note that seating capacity is limited. At 5:30 p.m., The Will Boyd Quintet will perform as part of the popular Summer Concerts at the Jones House. Sponsored by the Town of Boone and now in its 30th season of concerts on the lawn, this much-loved series features a wide variety of musical genres that appeals to all types of music fans. This event is free of charge and the Carolina Food Monger truck will be available to concertgoers.

Audiences will then head over to the App Theatre for the 7:30 p.m. performance by The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra.

From 10 p.m. until midnight, jazz enthusiasts and musicians from near and far will gather at Beacon Butcher Bar in Boone for a Late Night Jazz Festival Jam Session.  It will be a chance to enjoy your favorite beverage and tasting menu while listening to emerging talents and seasoned veterans celebrating this beloved art form. The Beacon is located at 125 Graduate Lane in the 1700 block of Highway 105 next to the iconic Water Wheel. This event is free of charge and no advance reservations are necessary.

The goal of the High Country Jazz Festival is “to host exceptional and engaging jazz experiences for local residents and regional audiences with proceeds to support arts, education, and civic programs that enrich our High Country home.”  The three-day celebration of the art form of jazz is a unique partnership between the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country (ATHC), Boone Sunrise Rotary, and the Jazz Studies Program at Appalachian State University. The 2023 festival is presented by Mast General Store with additional support from Explore Boone and Hampton Inn & Suites, Boone. 

The 2023 High Country Jazz Festival is offering an “all-event” ticket, which includes admission to all three headliner performances. There are two options: Premier ($110, including taxes and fees, with prime seating for Appalachian Theatre performances) and Regular ($95, including taxes and fees). To purchase tickets, please visit the festival’s official website at www.highcountryjazzfestival.org

The High Country Jazz Festival is a collaborative program of:

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About the Appalachian Theatre

The mission of the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country is to revitalize and sustain this historic community touchstone as a quality home for diverse artists and audiences with a special focus on programs that celebrate our distinctive Appalachian heritage and enhance our capacity to serve as an economic catalyst for Boone and the High Country. Once a gorgeous 999-seat Art Deco movie house, the building closed in 2007 and sat empty and gutted for years. On October 14, 2019, the Appalachian Theatre reopened its doors after a $10 million renovation that brought the distinctive Art Deco details back to this historic theatre and created a new 629-seat, state-of-the-art, acoustically pristine venue for live concerts, films, plays, and dance performances. The historic Appalachian Theatre has entertained regional audiences in the heart of downtown Boone, North Carolina since 1938. www.apptheatre.org  

About Boone Sunrise Rotary

Boone Sunrise Rotary brings together business, professional and civic leaders within our community. Rotary promotes integrity, understanding and goodwill locally, nationally, and worldwide. The proceeds from the festival will further Rotary’s commitment to humanitarian and civic service and will go directly to many of the local nonprofit organizations that serve the High Country. www.boonerotary.org

About the Jazz Studies Program

The Jazz Studies Program at Appalachian State University identifies students with a special interest in jazz, promotes high standards of jazz performance, and expands the circle of students who have meaningful experiences with jazz during their college careers.  Program support will help provide student enrichment, off-set performance tour costs, student scholarships, host acclaimed jazz clinicians and the purchase of music and supplies. www.music.appstate.edu