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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

IJS Home, Jazz Greats Home
Dana Digital Media Lab


“It would have seemed incredible in 1936 that twenty-odd years later there should be only two big bands in regular existence,” Stanley Dance wrote in The World of Count Basie. “Had that possibility been entertained, it would have seemed reasonable enough that one should be Duke Ellington’s. But that the other should be Count Basie’s—that, too, would have seemed incredible.”
From the time Count Basie’s “Old Testament Band” surged out of Kansas City in 1936 and brought his irrepressible mixture of blues and riff-based head arrangements to New York until his death in 1984, Basie and the bands he led were a touchstone of jazz history. We proudly celebrate Red Bank New Jersey’s most famous musical son during his centennial year of 2004.

Unlike our three previous entries in the Jazz Greats Digital Exhibits (Benny Carter, Mary Lou Williams and Fats Waller, whose centennial is also celebrated in 2004) this one does not emerge from a specific collection at the Institute of Jazz Studies. The many images used came in part from IJS’s main files, but also from other sources generously permitting reproduction. Special thanks goes to Frank Driggs of the vaunted archives which bears his name and to Getty Images for permitting the Institute of Jazz Studies to reproduce their images here. In both cases, these images helped to fill in crucial visual gaps of the Basie story.

In addition to panels of historic images, the work of many individual photographers yields a photojournalistic account of Basie and his illustrious sidemen that conveys the seriousness of purpose with which Basie approached his craft and the joy he imparted to his audiences. An early photo essay of the band at the Famous Door in 1938 captures the band hitting its stride at the 52nd Street club where Basie made his breakthrough New York appearance. A 1944 series shows Basie lounging in the Manhattan offices of Columbia Records with his great tenor saxophonist Lester Young, and includes tender glimpses of Basie’s wife Catherine and their infant daughter Diana.

Chuck Stewart, a Teaneck, New Jersey resident whose photographs can also be seen on the Mary Lou Williams website, returns with photographs of the band and Joe Williams recording for Roulette Records in the fall of 1957, while Canadian photographer Paul Hoeffler’s work shows the band during its July appearance at the same year’s Newport Jazz Festival. The famed bassist and photographer Milt Hinton, whose work is handled by David Berger and Holly Maxson of the Milton J. Hinton Photograph Collection, captures Basie amid other jazz giants at the historic CBS broadcast The Sound of Jazz in December of that same productive year. Tantalizing images by an unidentified photographer from the 1960s reveals the unlikely pairing of Count Basie and John Coltrane, with legendary Voice of America broadcaster Willis Conover looking on. The work of the late New York photographer Nancy Miller Elliott, who turned her lenses on Basie and other veterans from the band and its tradition, is a tribute to these men and women and the photographer who created the images. A final photo essay by IJS archivist Tad Hershorn features Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald in rehearsal and concert in San Antonio.

We are grateful cultural historian and novelist Albert Murray to whom Count Basie told his 1985 autobiography Good Morning Blues for characteristic and spirited opening statement. This site also benefits from the participation of Peabody Award-winning radio producer Jim Luce and his Count Basie Centennial Radio Project, heard on National Public Radio affiliates.

The Jazz Greats Digital Exhibits are co-produced by the Institute of Jazz Studies and the Dana Library Media and Digital Services, both located in the Dana Library on the Newark Campus of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Tad Hershorn oversaw work on the project. Institute Director Dan Morgenstern wrote portions of the historical text and provided editorial direction, as did Associate Director Edward Berger. Computer engineering major Edwin Vitery served as web master, as he did for the Fats Waller website. His formidable technical skills and sense of design combined text, images and music to bring the Basie story to life.

© Copyright 2004, Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University Libraries

Basie website maintained by the Media Associate