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Count Basie

Count Basie (August 21, 1904 – April 26, 1984) was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer. In 1935, Basie formed his own jazz orchestra, the Count Basie Orchestra, and in 1936 took them to Chicago for a long engagement and their first recording. He led the group for almost 50 years, creating innovations like the use of two "split" tenor saxophones, emphasizing the rhythm section, riffing with a big band, using arrangers to broaden their sound, and others.

At the end of 1936, Basie and his band, now billed as "Count Basie and His Barons of Rhythm," moved from Kansas City to Chicago, where they honed their repertoire at a long engagement at the Grand Terrace Ballroom. Right from the start, Basie's band was noted for its rhythm section. Another Basie innovation was the use of two tenor saxophone players; at the time, most bands had just one. When Young complained of Herschel Evans' vibrato, Basie placed them on either side of the alto players, and soon had the tenor players engaged in "duels". Many other bands later adapted the split tenor arrangement.

In that city in October 1936, the band had a recording session which the producer John Hammond later described as "the only perfect, completely perfect recording session I've ever had anything to do with". Hammond had heard Basie's band by radio and went to Kansas City to check them out. He invited them to record, in performances which were Lester Young's earliest recordings. Those four sides were released on Vocalion Records under the band name of Jones-Smith Incorporated; the sides were "Shoe Shine Boy", "Evening", "Boogie Woogie", and "Lady Be Good". After Vocalion became a subsidiary of Columbia Records in 1938, "Boogie Woogie" was released in 1941 as part of a four-record compilation album entitled Boogie Woogie. When he made the Vocalion recordings, Basie had already signed with Decca Records, but did not have his first recording session with them until January 1937.

By then, Basie's sound was characterized by a "jumping" beat and the contrapuntal accents of his own piano. His personnel around 1937 included: Lester Young and Herschel Evans (tenor sax), Freddie Green (guitar), Jo Jones (drums), Walter Page (bass), Earle Warren (alto sax), Buck Clayton and Harry Edison (trumpet), Benny Morton and Dickie Wells (trombone). Lester Young, known as "Prez" by the band, came up with nicknames for all the other band members. He called Basie "Holy Man", "Holy Main", and just plain "Holy".

Basie favored blues, and he would showcase some of the most notable blues singers of the era after he went to New York: Billie Holiday, Jimmy Rushing, Big Joe Turner, Helen Humes, and Joe Williams. He also hired arrangers who knew how to maximize the band's abilities, such as Eddie Durham and Jimmy Mundy.

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Listen to Count Basie on Swing City Radio.  We are a Big Band Radio Station playing a wide selection of Big Band and Swing music.

Swing City Radio plays Count Basie - Listen to our station and hear the songs:
Flat Foot Floogie
One O'clock Jump
They Can't Take That Away from Me
Open The Door Richard
The Count Steps In
I Never Knew
Super Chief
Swingin' the Blues
Your Red Wagon
Topsy
Wiggle Woogie
Jumping At the Woodside
Panassie Stomp
John's Idea
Jive at Five

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