Count Basie And Jazz Essay

1090 words - 4 pages

Kristen O'Connell10/1/2014History of JazzKristen O'Connell10/1/2014History of JazzCount Basie and Jazz"If you play a tune and a person don't tap their feet, don't play the tune." - Count BasieWilliam "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 like Louis Armstrong (Vail 36). During his last years in Harlem, Basie - known for his "attitude of poise and self-assurance" - worked consistently at Leroy's, a jazz club where he participated in cutting contests and performed using primarily head arrangements (Robinson 155). He also fell under the favor of Willie "the Lion" Smith, who arranged for Basie to play at rent parties, instructed him in piano technique, and introduced him to some of the top jazz musicians in New York.William Basie's life changed in 1928 when he heard Walter Page and his Famous Blue Devils, one of the first ever big bands, performing in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Although Basie received and accepted an invitation to join that band (where he was famously dubbed "Count" Basie), he left in 1929 to play with other ensembles, and eventually settled with Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra in the same year. Count Basie left the Kansas City Orchestra after Moten's death in 1935, formed his own band of nine musicians, and called them the Barons of Rhythm. Based in the Reno Club of Kansas City, Basie and the Barons of Rhythm, were frequently broadcast on the radio, which led to a contract with the Decca Recording Company. In the next year, the Barons of...

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