Day: October 31, 2017

Count Basie

Count Basie

The story of Count Basie is very much the story of the great jazz band that he led for close to 50 years (1935-1984), an orchestra with a distinctive sound, anchored by a subtle but propulsive beat, buoyed by crisp ensemble work and graced with legendary soloists still to date a catalogue of featured players which read like a Who’s Who of jazz. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Count Basie band’s achievement was his steadfast perseverance in staying strong with a 50-year music run with several honorable awards to match.

He was a notable honorary member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Count Basie born William James Basie, an only child was born in Red Bank, New Jersey in 1904 to two musically gifted parents. His father, who was a gardener by profession, played horn, while his mother played the piano. His mother was his 1st piano teacher. At an early age Basie knew his calling. Music. He dropped out of high school and began frequenting Harlem’s night life. He was particularly fascinated with pianists who perfected their own loose style called the Harlem stride.

Basie met Thomas “Fats” Waller, a great stride piano player. Waller informally taught Basie the intricacies of the organ and introduced him to other stride luminaries. Basie got his start performing in various vaudeville acts, touring around the country. Money was scared and he eventually went bankrupted. Basie was left stranded and broke in Kansas City but instead up quitting the biz, even with battling and overcoming spinal meningitis, Basie picked himself up.

Basie found work in the city’s movie theaters as a pianist. In late 1920s Basie joined various bands, epitomizing that Kansas City style of jazz. Along with developing his own sound, Basie’s sound was characterized by a “jumping” beat and the contrapuntal accents of his own piano. At this the time Bill Basie began to make a name for himself, he was soon dubbed but other as “Count. ” Soon Count Basie formed his own big band, The Barons of Rhythm.

The band was eventually renamed the Count Basie Orchestra, and their sound was distinct from the other big bands of the day, with a far more bluesy, less polished feel. Basie band popularity continued rise but after a decade of hits the swing era began to fade in mid 1940s. The Band disbanding briefly, Count Basie still kept going doing music through various mediums. Eventually, Count Basie Orchestra revived in 1952 and continued to flourish.

Count Basie Orchestra performed everywhere from Birdland to 1961 Presidential Inaugural ball to Great Britain for a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II along with Winning multi Grammys for Jazz for four straight decades. Basie’s health gradually deteriorated the last eight years of his life. Count Basie continued to see it through and he performed up to a month before his death in 1984. He died of pancreatic cancer on April 26, 1984 leaving behind millions of fans including myself who still play his music today.