The Soul Rebels, Nicholas Payton, Cimafunk, and Weedie Braimah Channel Count Basie’s Big Band-Meets-Caribbean Sound On A New Version Of “St. Thomas”

Article Contributed by IVPR | Published on Friday, March 10, 2023

More than five decades ago, the legendary Count Basie covered Sonny Rollins’s now-classic “St. Thomas,” melding his iconic piano playing and big band stylings with its Caribbean-inflected feel to great effect. The blending of sounds and cultures moved people’s bodies and minds in a way that still ripples into the current day. Fittingly, the newest single from the upcoming musical celebration of Count Basie, Late Night Basie—out April 7th via Primary Wave Music—find New Orleans’ beloved brass outfit The Soul Rebels collaborating with fellow New Orleanian and trumpet titan Nicholas Payton, Cuba’s genre-bending golden boy Cimafunk, and Grammy-nominated djembe master, producer, and composer Weedie Braimah on a whole new cross-Caribbean version of “St. Thomas.”

For a song that’s long been part of the jazz standard repertoire, this Late Night Basie cut of “St. Thomas” channels Basie’s 1967 version in a way that seamlessly blends even more musical styles into a funk new brew. The Soul Rebels’ “St. Thomas” snaps and crackles with a vibe and brio that is a perfect context for Cimafunk’s unique vocalizations and Nicholas Payton’s melodically free-flowing improvisation and prodigious chops; a gumbo representation of collaboration and cross-pollination just as bright today as it was in Basie’s hands 56 years ago.

“The music and spirit of Count Basie has extraordinarily influenced how today’s contemporary and progressive ensembles with horns and brass arrange music,” says drummer and co-found of The Soul Rebels, Lumar LeBlanc. “Basie’s musical, artistic, and cultural impact is deep and powerful, and we’re grateful to participate in this special project.” “We're blessed to have trailblazers like Count, who used his art to make people feel good,” adds Cima. “He had an incredible ability to get everyone to smile and move their bodies. I always try and bring some of Count’s elegance, groove, and swag to the stage with me, and it’s a real privilege to be part of this project to celebrate his life and legacy…and keep folks smiling and dancing to his music!”

Fans can check out “St. Thomas” right now at this link and read what New Orleans-based Gambit Weekly had to say about the song right here.

Hear the previously-released single “Didn’t You” by Lettuce (feat. Talib Kweli) at this link. Late Night Basie can be pre-saved or pre-ordered ahead of its April 7th release right here.

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More About Late Night Basie: With Late Night Basie, visionary producer Paul Peck wanted to find and highlight the intersection of Count Basie through seemingly unrelated artists. For him, Basie is one of the primary colors of music; one that allows you to create infinite variations when mixed and matched with others and itself. “I see Basie as an artist who didn’t care about overwhelming you with a torrent of notes. He made the right choice in the right place at the right time to create space to hear and absorb the intent and feeling of the music,” says Peck. “This quality among others makes him so universally understood and so impactful, that he is the core of an almost infinite number of musical variations.” Late Night Basie is the latest of these variations, featuring performances from Terence Blanchard, Talib Kweli, Nicholas Payton, The Count Basie Orchestra (directed by Scotty Barnhart), Cimafunk, Larkin Poe, The Soul Rebels, Lettuce, Jazzmeia Horn, Ray Angry, Will Lee & Shawn Pelton, Jimmy Vivino, Weedie Braimah & others.

“Putting together this tribute album to Count Basie has been a labor of love over the last several years”, states Rob Dippold, Partner & President of Digital Strategy for Primary Wave Music. “As we strive to continuously develop fresh and tasteful approaches to celebrate (and create new IP) for our iconic song catalogs, this release will introduce Count Basie to new generations of music lovers while respecting his existing fanbase."

Late Night Basie Tracklist:

“Didn’t You” Lettuce (Feat. Talib Kweli)

“One O’Clock Jump” - The Count Basie Orchestra (Feat. Jazzmeia Horn & Ray Angry)

“Blue & Sentimental” - Larkin Poe (Feat. Will Lee & Shawn Pelton)

“M-Squad” - The Count Basie Orchestra (Feat. Terence Blanchard)

“Jumpin’ at the Woodside” - The Count Basie Orchestra (Feat. Jimmy Vivino & Ray Angry)

“St. Thomas” - The Soul Rebels (Feat. Nicholas Payton, Cimafunk & Weedie Braimah)

“One O’Clock Jump” (Bonus track) - Danny Jonokuchi & The Revisionists*

*winners of DownBeat Magazine’s inaugural Count Basie Contest.