Charleston Jazz Orchestra – Atomic Basie

It makes me proud to call the Charleston Music Hall the Charleston Jazz Orchestra’s official “House of Swing.”  This year marks the CJO’s fifth season playing in the Music Hall, and I love them all dearly.  They are a hard working bunch with an insane passion for Jazz and spreading Charleston’s Jazz history.  Charleston actually has a very rich and deep relationship with Jazz and many of the instrumentalists who were responsible for the development of the genre have hailed from our little coastal town.  Big band jazz is certainly a sight to see.  The force and movement that comes off that stage is astounding.  Charlton Singleton, the CJO’s maestro and lead trumpeter, leads a strong team of seventeen instrumentalists made up of piano, stand up bass, guitar, drums, and a thirteen piece brass section. 

The CJO plays six shows at the Music Hall each year.  They kicked off 2013 with a tribute to John Coltrane back in January.  Saturday Night, the CJO performed their second show of the year and paid tribute to Count Basie playing through his most renowned album, The Atomic Mr. Basie, which was originally recorded in 1958.  On top of composing, conducting, and leading on the saxophone, Mr. Singleton also has a beautiful voice, and he started off the evening vocally leading his band in Basie’s The Late Late Show.  The band then jumped right into the show and played two hour and half sets.  One thing that I really appreciate about Charlton is that he is a passionate teacher, a prophet of his craft if you will, and wants people to really understand the depth and gravity of the songs that are being played on stage.  At every show he makes a connection between the music that is being played and Charleston.  For instance, two of the original members of the Basie orchestra were from Charleston.  He truly loves both Charleston and Jazz and wants people to make the important connection between the two.

One of my favorite mental images of the night was when I was sitting side stage looking out at the band, and I saw all seventeen members’ feet tapping, well more like bouncing, to the tunes.  These musicians certainly love the music just as much as their maestro.  The CJO ended the evening with a sneak peak into their next show, Porgy and Bess, which will be performed at the Charleston Music Hall May 18th.  If you have yet to see the CJO, then I would highly recommend coming out to their next show.  I cannot stress how important it is for us to support our local arts and music groups.  Charleston certainly is a beautiful place to live, but this beauty would amount to naught if it were not for the people and artists that make this city such as great place to live.  Check out the CJO’s website here for more information on this fantastic organization, and I hope to see you at the next CJO show.


– Charles Carmody, CMH Director