William James Basie, also known as Count Basie, was an extremely popular pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer who was well known for his orchestra. Many big bands flourished during the swing era such as Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Chick Webb. These bands could swing, however, none of these legends could swing like the Count Basie Orchestra. Count Basie proved that a big band could still swing, without losing it’s spontaneity. With his big band style, Basie was without a doubt one of the biggest influences of the swing era.
Count Basie was born August 21, 1904 in Red Bank, New Jersey. His father was a coachman and caretaker for a judge, and his mother took in ...view middle of the document...
Basie played with Moten until 1934. Moten encouraged Basie to try to lead a band himself. In fact, Basie did lead his own band for a short time in Little Rock, Arkansas, but he soon returned to Moten's band. He stayed with the Moten band until Bennie Moten suddenly died in 1935. Basie stayed on for a while under the leadership of Bennie's brother Buster, but he left shortly thereafter. He organized a nine-piece band, the Barons of Rhythm, with Buster and other former members of the Moten orchestra. Basie eventually took over as bandleader, and with his band members, Walter Paige, Jo Jones, and Lester Young, they began a steady gig at the Reno Club in Kansas City.
It was in 1936 while headlining at the Reno Club, where the band crafted their signature sound. This club is also where Basie earned the nickname "Count.” The band’s style was a "powerful swing" driven by the rhythm section mixed with Basie's sparse piano playing. Through live radio broadcasts at the club, the band gained the attention of John Hammond, who wanted to help Basie and his band to the next level. With Hammond's financial and promotional support, these musicians formed the Count Basie Orchestra.
With the newly expanded band, there was bound to be some flaws. Some critics described the band's early sound as "rough” and "ragged". However, Basie worked it all out when the band became very well known from a prolonged gig in a club called the Famous Door. The Count Basie Orchestra attracted many people with its distinctive sound. The Count Basie Orchestra’s simple riffs that incorporated blues, coupled with the "greatest rhythm section in jazz history", enabled the band to swing like no other. I believe Basie himself may have explained it best when he said, "a band can really swing when it swings easy, when it can play along like cutting butter…Even a single note can swing”.
Recording contracts soon followed the band's success at the Famous Door. In January of 1937, the Count Basie Orchestra made its first recording on the Decca record label. By the following year, the Count Basie Orchestra was one the major big...