Update
The Oxford Biblical Studies Online and Oxford Islamic Studies Online have retired. Content you previously purchased on Oxford Biblical Studies Online or Oxford Islamic Studies Online has now moved to Oxford Reference, Oxford Handbooks Online, Oxford Scholarship Online, or What Everyone Needs to Know®. For information on how to continue to view articles visit the subscriber services page.
Dismiss

Related Content

Related Overviews

Frank Sinatra (1915—1998) American singer and actor

Ella Fitzgerald (1917—1996) American jazz singer

Lester Young (1909—1959)

Fats Waller (1904—1943) American jazz pianist, songwriter, bandleader, and singer

See all related overviews in Oxford Reference »

 

More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • Music

GO

Show Summary Details

Overview

Count Basie

(1904—1984) American jazz pianist, organist, and bandleader


Quick Reference

1904–1984)

Black US jazz pianist, organist, and bandleader. He led one of the best-known big bands during the swing era, and continued to do so for many years thereafter.

Born in Red Bank, New Jersey, Basie began his musical career by playing the piano in Harlem dance halls. As a youngster he admired the organ playing of Fats Waller in a silent cinema in Harlem and arranged to take piano lessons from him. Subsequently he toured theatres and accompanied vaudeville acts; in 1928–29 he played with Walter Page's Blue Devils and then with Bennie Moten (1894–1935), whose band was regarded as the best in the midwest. Basie broadcast from Kansas City in 1936 with a group called the Barons of Rhythm, acquiring the name ‘Count’ from a radio announcer. Producer John Hammond heard the band and organized a tour for them. The augmented band had several great soloists and an extremely competent rhythm section; success followed an engagement at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem in early 1938. Basie kept his band together until well into the 1960s, except for a period between 1950 and 1952 when he led an octet. He toured the world with changing personnel, appearing and recording with singers Tony Bennett (1926– ), Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra.

He was as modest as Duke Ellington about his own stride style of piano playing, reducing it as a leader to a percussive cueing of the band from the keyboard. However, his real worth as a jazz pianist was always evident in his playing with small groups.

Subjects: Music


Reference entries

View all reference entries »