History of Jazz
History of Jazz
Count Basie and Jazz
"If you play a tune and a person don't tap their feet, don't play the tune." - Count Basie
William "Count" Basie (1904-1984) was a prominent pianist and composer during the swing era in jazz, and, as a bandleader, epitomized a big band style that characterized mid-20th century popular music. Basie's impressive sixty-year career can be compartmentalized into pre- and post-1928, when he was introduced to the big band style that he embraced for the rest of his career. During his lifetime, Count Basie worked with hundreds of musicians, vocalists, and producers in numerous countries, but always stayed true to his taste, his sound. "Play like you play," he famously said, "and whatever you get, that's you, so that's your story" (qtd. in Parker). Today, Basie's legacy is reflected by his many awards and through the extensive discography he recorded with his band and other ensembles.
Born in Red Bank, New Jersey to Harvey Lee and Lillian Basie, William James Basie began piano lessons with his mother at a young age. Although he did complete junior high school, Basie was ever a big fan of school, and instead wanted "to be big, to be in show business, and to travel" (Basie 19). He moved to Harlem, New York - a jazz hotspot - around 1920, where he met James P. Johnson, a Harlem stride pianist, and Fats Waller a pipe organist at the Lincoln Theater; in his autobiography, Basie sites Fats Waller as his most important musical influence (Basie 46). Basie toured with several vaudeville circuits before the age of 20, and these experiences offered him a valuable early training as a pianist and music director, in addition to exposure to great jazz artists...