On February 4, 2024, FSU College of Music Professor of Jazz Trumpet Scotty Barnhart took home the GRAMMY Award for “Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album” for Basie Swings the Blues by the Count Basie Orchestra. This is Barnhart’s third win, all with the Basie Orchestra, but first as its director. This year’s award is doubly meaningful, as he shares the win with Florida State University jazz program alumnus and member of the Count Basie Orchestra, Robert Boone (MM ’16).
Directed by Barnhart, Basie Swings the Blues pays homage to the iconic sound of William James “Count” Basie, renown jazz pianist, bandleader, and composer who founded the eponymous orchestra in 1935. The album stays true to the Count Basie Orchestra’s traditions while paying homage to the sound of the Delta Blues. Featuring a guest roster of all-star blues musicians, Basie Swings the Blues redefines the genre of blues rock, stitching complex and difficult blends of big band with harmonic rhythms and intimate solos.
“The idea came to me that we should record with as many of the most important blues musicians alive, as we could end up with a groundbreaking recording that had never been done before,” says Barnhart. “Well, now it has been done, and for my idea to be recognized with a GRAMMY Award is just incredible and quite stunning.”
Regarding the success of the recording, Barnhart humbly says, “This is all due to the genius leadership of Mr. Basie. I’m just fortunate to have been chosen to lead his orchestra. It’s the greatest honor in the world to me.”
Barnhart, an avid admirer of Count Basie ever since he saw Basie perform while in high school, never foresaw himself as a member of Basie’s orchestra for 31 years or serving as its director for 11 of those years.
Barnhart was also quick to recognize and thank many of those who helped make the moment possible.
“I’d like to again thank Sam Beler and his Unity Music Foundation, of which I have also been able to get scholarship money to several of our FSU students over the years. Of course, a huge thanks to all of my former teachers, most importantly Professor Lindsey Sarjeant at Florida A&M University, and all of my colleagues and students at FSU.”
Next year will mark the 90th anniversary of the Count Basie Orchestra. According to Barnhart, plans are already in the works to celebrate the occasion, including a special collaboration with the top jazz ensemble at the College of Music.
Barnhart has been a faculty member in the College of Music’s acclaimed jazz program since 2003.
“I’m just fortunate to be at Florida State,” Barnhart said in an interview with FSU News following the awards ceremony. “I love doing it, and I’ll be there until I can’t play or walk or talk anymore. This is not work to me. This is what my passion in life is.”