Count Basie

Few names in jazz are more revered than Count Basie, not only a great pianist and bandleader, but an inspired composer and arranger too. He was first taught to play as a child by his mother and in his early days also played drums, before concentrating on piano after teaming up with Sonny Greer, a drummer from his own locality in Red Bank, New Jersey. Moving to Harlem in the 1920s, Basie found work playing in clubs and had tutelage from the great Fats Waller. He was given the name "Count" after joining Walter Page's big band, the Blue Devils and by the end of the 1920s he was working with the Bennie Moten band. This gave him the platform to form his own band, which went through several incarnations before finding a regular spot in Chicago as Count Basie & His Barons of Rhythm, noted for its heavy concentration of rhythm. Discovered by producer John Hammond they recorded classic tracks Shoe Shine Boy, Boogie Woogie and Lady Be Good under the name Jones-Smith Incorporated, noted for their "jumping beat". Heavily influenced by blues, he featured Billie Holiday and then Helen Humes as singers (other Basie singers along the way included Jimmy Rushing, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Sarah Vaughan and Tony Bennett) as the Basie Orchestra became recognised as one of the top big bands of the era. He experimented with different styles, but the beat was always king in his eyes and during the 1950s the band conquered Europe, retaining their immense popularity through regularly changing line-ups until his death from pancreatic cancer in 1984. Basie also appeared in various movies, including Blazing Saddles (1974) when he played his famous arrangement of April In Paris.

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Stations Featuring Count Basie

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