Count Basie responded to a standing ovation from a packed Wolf Trap Saturday night with an encore that featured tandem, boiling choruses by saxophonists Eric Schneider and Eric Dixon. At its conclusion he wheeled his electric-powered chair to the edge of the stage, smiled, said a few words of thanks, waved and departed to the wings. Basie plays sparser piano these days as he approaches his 79th birthday next month, but he still characteristically cues with a raised finger or a nod the swingingest band ever.
Alto saxophonist Chris Wood's wailing blues feature, trombonist Dennis Wilson's upper register muted, then low growling, open horn "Lament," Bob Summer's beautiful fluegelhorn tone "There'll Never Be Another You" and the several ballads and resounding "C.C. Rider" of vocalist Dennis Roland were high points of the hour-long set.
Betty Carter, who opened with a program of standards and originals, was in top form and supported by a lively young trio on this steamy night but this idiosyncratic bebop-based vocal artistry did not go over especially well with an audience that was apparently in the mood to relive the swing era. On ballads there was an arresting Carter in a play-by-play slow motion, sometimes in literal freeze-frame. On up-tempo tunes her scat poured fourth at drum roll velocity. "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" employed the verb 'do' as a key word, dropping it on and off the beat, bending it and stretching it out like taffy.