Full Name: William Basie
Born:24th August 1904
Died:April 26th 1984
Place of Birth:Red Bank New Jersey
InfluencesTeddy Wilson, Fats Waller and Earl Hines
The parents of Basie were both amateur musicians; his dad played an E-Flat horn, and his mum was a piano player. So it was his mother that started him on the road of the piano, although while in a school band Basie played the drums. However his drum career came to an apbrut end when someone else came along and showed that he was better then Basie, who departed from the band quickly. Basie however was not discouraged, he then tool up the piano, and 31 years later that same boy (Sonny Greer) who played the drums was playing for Basie in his band.
When Basie reached his teens he was extremely luck to study with Fats Waller and James P. Johnson. While learning with Johnson Basie picked up his "stride" style piano playing which made him legendary. Basie was now playing Harlem nightclubs and also 'prohibition hideaways'.
"Criticizing one's own band isn't the easiest thing to do, and yet I welcome the opportunity".
- Count Basie
The Early Years
Time flew and when Basie was 20 he found himself flying from New Jersey to Kansas City, which was known then as "the gateway to the west". Here he found a job playing an organ in a movie theater, and soon he was playing with a band called the "Blue Devils". While playing with this band, Basie picked up many things, but notably he was introduced to the "jump rhythm" style. In 1929 Bennie Moten absorbed most of the Blue Devils and continued to work the Southwest territory until his untimely death in a car accident.
Soon after Moten's death Basie formed a nine-piece group in which he based around a rhythm section of himself, people such as Walter Page (who was there from the start) Jo Jones and Lester young joined shortly after Basie formed the band. With this line up, it gave Basie's band a unique sound, with the excellent Jo Jones on the drums with his lovely Hi-Hat control, and with the lovely Tenor sound of Lester Young it made the band complete. Because of his success of this band, Basie sooned earned the title of Count and was rivaled with Duke Ellington.
"I, of course, wanted to play real jazz. When we play pop tunes, and naturally we must, I want those pops to kick! Not loud and fast"
Basie, in 1936 started to play at the Reno club and was soon making broadcasts late at night, these broadcasts were heard by many and indeed attracted the interest of many people. It wasn’t long after this that Basie and his band were signed to Decca Records for a 2 year contract.
Decca and onwards
Basie and his band recorded for 2 major companies. Firstly there was Decca Records, they recorded them for 2 years (1937-1939) and then later on with Columbia Records for 8 years (1939-1946). The Decca Records mostly consisted of the orginal arrangements for "One O'Clock Jump", "Jumpin at the Woodside". The Columbia Records had the original arrangements for "Taxi War Dance", "Miss thing", most of these tunes were really Lester Young masterpieces.
With the war out of the way Basie moved to Victor, but here he didn’t have the principle solo voices that gave his band that edge. Soon 1950 came along and Basie decided to call it a day with his first Count Basie Big Band.
However this wasn’t the end of Basie himself. In 1952 Basie was forming a new big band, this orchestra featured saxophone players such as Frank Foster, Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis.Trumpet players such as Joe Newman and Thad Jones were also included. Unlike his last band Basie now found himself in the middle of the era of the big singers like Frank Sinartra and Tony Bennett with whom he the had pleasure of playing with.
This second band lasted all the way to the 80s, in between this time, Basie suffered from a heart attack but still carried with the job that he loved until he died from cancer in 1984.
NOTE: There are more ablums in the discography, just too many to put down.