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“Simplicity and Celebration: An Appreciation of Count Basie” by Albert Murray
A Tale of Three Cities: Red Bank, Kansas City, New York
First Testament Band Roars Out of Kansas City
1938 Famous Door Photo Essay, Frank Driggs Collection
Basie in the 40's: Time of Transition
1944 Columbia Records Photo Essay, Frank Driggs Collection
Basie in the 50's: Sixteen Men Swinging-Again
Milt Hinton Photo Essay, Sound of Jazz, CBS Television, December 8,1957
Chuck Stewart Photo Essay: The Basie Band and Joe Williams, Roulette recording sessions, 1957
Chance meeting: The Count and Coltrane
Tad Hershorn Photo Essay: Ella Fitzgerald and Basie in San Antonio, 1979
Count Basie Virtual Jukebox
They Speak of Basie: Joe Williams, Freddie Green, Jay McShann, Oscar Peterson, Albert Murray, Helen Humes, Louie Bellson . . .
Suggested Recordings and Readings
Finale: Video of Count Basie at Montreux, 1977


The band also took advantage of opportunities popular big bands had to appear in Hollywood films. In 1943 alone, the band could be seen in six motion pictures: Hit Parade of 1943, Top Man, Crazy House, I Dood It, Reveille with Beverly, and Stage Door Canteen. Besides being feel-good patriotic period pieces from the war years, these films’ most lasting legacy is capturing performances of scores of top jazz and popular artists of the 1940s.

Among the highlights of the post-war era came with the release of the novelty number “Open the Door, Richard,” garnished with a sly vocal by Harry Edison. The song became the No. 1 hit of 1947and was so popular that a cover of the song by Louis Jordan made the top ten hit list that same year. But the momentum that had carried the band to the big leagues a decade before could not be sustained by novelty tunes, a fact Basie well understood.

The changing climate for big bands—the dearth of available star soloists, the rise of bop with its emphasis on small groups and a decline in jazz clubs in favor of large halls—caused Basie to scale down to a septet in 1950 and 1951, featuring Clark Terry and Lester Young-disciple Wardell Gray. He got a handle on the problem when he returned to a big-band format in 1952. Along with new faces there was a new approach to the music. Basie found gifted arrangers who provided charts creating a fresh Basie ensemble sound that allowed soloists to come and go without affecting the essence of the band’s music—hard-swinging blues, impeccable time and superb taste. And so the New Testament sound was born.


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Count Basie at the Hotel Lincoln in New York in 1945. Photograph by Duncan Butler. Frank Driggs Collection.

An all-star cast met in 1943 in Los Angeles for a broadcast over radio station KNX. Joining in the festivities were, l-r, Dinah Shore, Spike Jones, Count Basie, Bob Burns, Lionel Hampton and Tommy Dorsey.

Count Basie on the cover of the February 1948 edition of Jazz Journal.
The marquee of New York's Strand Theater includes notice of appearances by the Count Basie Orchestra and Pearl Bailey in 1947.
Although famous for his minimalist style on the piano, Count Basie, seen in an undated 1940s photograph, could hold his own playing the organ. Basie learned organ from Fats Waller who also doubled on organ.

Count and Catherine Basie, right, socialize with Jimmy Rushing, trumpeter and bandleader Erskine Hawkins and singer Dinah Washington in 1946. Frank Driggs Collection.


Count Basie enjoys a reunion at the American Federation of Musicians Local #627 in Kansas City around 1942. Others joining in the impromptu session include, l-r, Ernie Williams, drums; unidentified; Clarence Graves, tenor saxophone; Buck Clayton, trumpet; Jo Jones, Jones, drums; Baby Lovett, drums; and unidentified. Frank Driggs Collection.


Basie-ites Lester Young, Freddie Green, Harry Edison, Ed Lewis and Dicky Wells performing at Cafe Society in this in impressionistic rotogravure published in 1944.


Lester Young, 1944.

Count Basie’s piano was graced by singer/dancer Dorothy Dandridge for the film Hit Parade of 1943. Republic Studios received an Academy Award nomination for the third in a series of Hit Parade films that also featured Freddy Martin and the Harlem Sandmen.
The Count Basie Orchestra at the Apollo Theater, May 24, 1940. Band members, l-r, including Walter Page, bass; Count Basie; Buddy Tate, tenor saxophone; Jo Jones, drums; Freddie Green, guitar; Tab Smith, alto and soprano saxophones: Buch Clayton, trumpet; Vic Dickenson, trombone; Jack Washington, alto and soprano saxophone; Dicky Wells, trombone; Al Killian, trumpet; Lester Young, tenor saxophone; Harry Edison, trumpet; and Dan Minor, trombone. Frank Driggs Collection.

The Count Basie Orchestra, seen here with singer Jimmy Rushing, had a featured spot in the 1943 World War II musical, Top Man, starring hoofer Donald O’Conner and Lillian Gish. The war years were busy ones for the Basie band. In addition to maintaining a touring schedule and playing for the troops, Basie and his musicians made half a dozen appearances on film in 1943 alone.

The Basie band with vocalist Thelma Carpenter entertain troops during World War II in this undated photograph. The informality of the occasion is visible by the fact that the musicians are reading musical charts perched on folding chairs rather than music stands. Frank Driggs Collection