William “Count” BasieJazz | 2008
Jazz icon, Count Basie, was born William James Basie on August 21, 1904, in Red Bank, New Jersey. Count Basie is considered one of the greatest bandleaders of all times. He was the arbiter of the big-band swing sound, and his unique style of fusing blues and jazz established swing as a predominant music style. He led the Count Basie Band for almost 50 years, recording on more than 480 albums. He is credited for creating the use of the two “split” tenor saxophone, emphasizing the rhythm section, riffing with a big band, and using arrangers to broaden their sound. Basie was often recognized for his understated yet captivating style of piano playing and his precise, impeccable musical leadership. The Count Basie Orchestra had a slew of hits that helped to define the big-band sound of the 1930s and 1940s. Some of their notable chart toppers included “Jumpin’ at the Woodside,” “April in Paris,” and Basie’s own composition, “One O’Clock Jump,” which became the orchestra’s signature piece. Basie made history in 1958 by becoming the first African-American male to receive a Grammy award, winning for Best Jazz Performance by a Group and Best Performance by a Dance Band.