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The Boy from Red Bank- Count Basie Remembered

A reader asks: " Where does Count Basie and his wonderful orchestra place on your list of top big bands?"

 Count Basie band poster
album cover/liners/getty

Count Basie and his orchestra placed ninth on the list of my "Big Band Era/Best of the Big Bands" lecture audiences. The boy from Red Bank, New Jersey, William "Count" Basie started out playing piano and organ for theater and vaudeville in the 1920s.

Influenced by Fats Waller, Basie formed his own big band, playing swing jazz and emphasizing hot soloists like saxophonist Lester Young.

During the 1940s and '50s, Basie and his orchestra were one of the most popular big bands in the U.S., with hits like "One O'Clock Jump" and "Jumpin' at the Woodside."

Even after the bop era of jazz had overwhelmed swing, Basie had success with smaller bands, continuing to perform and record up to his death in 1984.

The story goes that an emcee or radio announcer dubbed him "Count," figuring there was already a King (of swing, Benny Goodman), a Duke (Ellington) and an Earl (Hines).

For Count Basie recording info visit THE MEMORY LANE SHOP.

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