Count Basie

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About Count Basie

Born in Red Bank, New Jersey, in 1904, pianist and bandleader William James “Count” Basie was a titan of the big band era. He moved to Harlem in the early 1920s, beginning a musical education that included stints in bands led by Walter Page and Bennie Moten. When the latter died in 1935, Basie took over the group, then billed as the Barons of Rhythm. The following year the group relocated to Chicago, forging a tough sound in which contrapuntal riffs only reinforced their rhythmic ferocity. Under Basie’s guidance the jazz orchestra was transformed into a swing machine fueled by a rhythm section that included drummer Sonny Greer and guitarist Freddie Green and a horn section that over the years boasted Lester Young, Buck Clayton, and Harry “Sweets” Edison. The group reinforced its blues bona fides with singer Jimmy Rushing. They recorded influential sides for Brunswick and Decca between 1937 and 1939, and Columbia between 1936 and 1950. Basie put together an even sleeker, higher-octane version of his orchestra in 1952, who toured the world, making records—including some classics with Frank Sinatra—and carrying on as swing exemplars even after his death in 1984.

HOMETOWN
Red Bank, NJ, United States of America
BORN
August 21, 1904