Wednesday, 21 August 2013
Count Basie born 21 August 1904
William "Count" Basie (August 21, 1904 – April 26, 1984) was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer.
Commonly regarded as one of the most important jazz bandleaders of his time, Basie led his popular groups for almost fifty years. Many notable musicians came to prominence under his direction, including saxophonist Lester Young and singers Jimmy Rushing and Joe Williams. Basie's theme songs were "One O'Clock Jump" and "April In Paris." "Every Day I Have The Blues" (1955), sung by the deep-voiced Williams, was also a major hit.
William James Basie was born on August 21,1904 in Red Bank, New Jersey to Harvey Lee Basie and Lillian Ann Childs, who lived on Mechanic Street. His father worked as coachman for a wealthy family. After automobiles replaced horses, his father became a groundskeeper and handyman for several families in the area. His mother took in laundry, and was Bill Basie's first piano teacher when he was a child. He started out to be a drummer, but the obvious talents of another young Red Bank drummer, Sonny Greer (who was Duke Ellington's drummer from 1919 to 1951), discouraged young Basie and he switched to piano. While he was in his late teens, he gravitated to Harlem, where he met Fats Waller who taught him how to play organ.
Basie toured the Keith circuit before the age of 20 and later the Columbia Burlesque and the Theater Owners Bookers Association (T.O.B.A.) vaudeville circuits starting in 1924 as a soloist, accompanist to blues singers Katie Krippen and Gonzelle White and music director for various acts.His touring took him to Kansas City, Missouri, where he met many jazz musicians in the area. In 1928 he joined Walter Page's Blue Devils, and the following year became the pianist with the Bennie Moten band based in Kansas City. It was at this time that he began to be known as "Count" Basie.
He started his own band in 1934, but eventually returned to Moten's band. After Moten died in 1935, the band unsuccessfully attempted to stay together. Basie formed a new band, which included many Moten alumni.
At the end of 1936, Bill Basie moved his band from Kansas City; they honed their repertoire at a long engagement at a Chicago club. In that city in October 1936, members of the band participated in a recording session which producer John Hammond later described as "the only perfect, completely perfect recording session I've ever had anything to do with". By the end of 1936 they began playing in New York City, where the Count Basie Orchestra remained until 1950.
Basie’s music was characterized by his trademark "jumping" beat and the contrapuntal accents of his own piano. Basie also showcased some of the best blues singers of the era: Billie Holiday, Jimmy Rushing, Big Joe Turner, Helen Humes, and Joe Williams. More importantly, Count Basie was a highly successful bandleader who was able to hold onto some of the greatest jazz musicians of the 1930s and early 1940s: Buck Clayton, Reunald Jones, Herschel Evans, Lester Young, and the band's brilliant rhythm section, including Walter Page, Freddie Green, and Jo Jones. He was also able to hire great arrangers who knew how to accentuate the band's abilities, such as Eddie Durham and Jimmy Mundy.
The big band era appeared to be at an end, but Basie reformed his as a 16-piece orchestra in 1952 known as his 'New Testament' group. This had brilliant arrangements by Neal Hefti, Buster Harding and Ernie Wilkins, plus a new breed of soloist who combined bebop ideas with a sense of blues and swing. Star sidemen included trumpeters Joe Newman and Thad Jones, and saxophonists Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis, Frank Foster and Frank Wess. With this band Basie continued to be one of the most influential and popular of all bandleaders right up until the time of his death. He toured constantly, made classic albums with several singers, including Tony Bennett and Sarah Vaughan, but his finest vocal discs feature the band's original Kansas City blues shouter JimmyRushing, or his post-war equivalent, the urbane Joe Williams.
Bill Basie died of pancreatic cancer in Hollywood, Florida on April 26, 1984 at the age of seventy-nine. (info edited from Wikipedia & BBC Jazz Profiles)