Band Leader in the Swing Era: William James “Count” Basie

Written By Sonny Akbar Sembada

Hi, my name is Sonny Akbar Sembada and I welcome you to my blog, The Uncle Jazz. The main topic of my blog is everything related to jazz music.. 

Band leader in the swing era William James, aka “Count” Basie. Born in the sunny vibes of August 1904 in Red Bank, New Jersey, this dude wasn’t just tickling the keys.

He was the brain behind the Band leader in the swing era Count Basie Big Band—the cool crew making waves in the jazz scene back in the late ’30s and ’40s.

So, Basie’s musical journey kicks off with some sweet notes from his mom’s piano. Ragtime secrets from Harlem’s cool cats, a bit of jamming with Fats Waller—setting the stage for his musical adventures, you know?

Band Leader in the Swing Era The Jazz Chronicles Count Basie

His gig life started as a sidekick in vaudeville, filling in for Fats Waller with Katie Crippen and her Kids. Imagine jamming with June Clark and the up-and-coming drummer Sonny Greer, who later rocked it with Duke Ellington—talk about the start of a cool rhythmic tale.

During the vaudeville road trip with Gonzel White, destiny takes Basie to a pitstop in Kansas City. A stint in silent movie theaters, a jam with the Walter Page Blue Devils in ’28 and ’29—just pit stops on his road to jazz stardom.

Kansas City Cool

In the Blue Devils gang, a blues poet steps up—Jimmy Rushing, Basie’s vocal homie. Fate plays its card when Rushing, all smiles, catches Basie’s melodies in the heart of Kansas City. An invite follows, sealing Basie’s fate as part of the Blue Devils after a night of jamming and good vibes.

Post-Blue Devils and Moten Band, Basie and his crew dive into their own scene. The Reno Club in Kansas City becomes their playground, with the best from the Moten crew joining the fun.

In the radio waves of 1936 in Kansas City, some radio dude tags him “Count” Basie, marking his spot among jazz big shots.

Youtube video by Count Basie 

Big Apple Swag

Guided by jazz guru John Hammond, Basie’s crew struts into the bright lights of the Big Apple in ’36. With Hammond having their backs, they hit their stride, dropping harmonies onto Decca records by January ’37.

Fast forward, and the Basie Big Band is breaking all the rules—Basie on the keys, Freddie Greene on guitar, Walter Page on bass, Jo Jones on drums—talk about a cool powerhouse.

The lineup is killer, with Jimmy Rushing crooning, and instrumental hotshots like Lester Young, Herschel Evans, Earl Warren, Buck Clayton, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Benny Morton, and Dickie Wells. Each note, a stroke of genius in their cool symphony.

Radio Waves of Swagger

That night in 1936 wasn’t just a radio gig; it was the birth of “Count” Basie—a name given by some radio cat, signifying his cool spot in the jazz hall of fame, rubbing shoulders with cats like Duke Ellington.

Read also Innovative Saxophonist: David Binney With a Distinctive Sound and Unique Compositions

Jazz Jams on Disc

Now, let’s kick back and groove to the beats of Band leader in the swing era Count Basie’s discography:

  • Count Basie/Lester Young – Live at Birdland (1952)
  • Count Basie Big Band (1954)
  • Lester Leaps In (1955)
  • Basie Bash (1956)
  • Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings (1956)
  • April in Paris (1956)
  • The Atomic Mr. Basie (1957)
  • Ella and Basie! (1963)

In the chill vibe of jazz, Band leader in the swing era Count Basie’s legacy rolls on—a timeless melody giving our hearts a good feel, an eternal rhythm keeping our spirits groovin’.

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