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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




 

Count Basie and Albert Murray meet at Your Father’s Moustache, a club on Long Island named for the song made famous by the Woody Herman Orchestra. Photo courtesy of Albert Murray.

 

 

IJS and Dana Digital Media Lab 2004


 


Nowhere else have blues musicians ever been more firmly dedicated to the proposition that "it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing" than in Kansas City in the early 1930s. What they were playing was, above all else, good-time, honky-tonk, dance-hall music for people to stomp away their troubles, etc. This is the source of the Basie sound.


After work, nightly jam sessions sometimes turned into battles or "cutting contests." Sometimes they showcased new talent, but mostly the musicians played for sheer enjoyment, for trying new ideas, and to keep current with the latest innovations. But the Kansas City jam session was no less dance-beat oriented for being an experimental laboratory, for it is the drive with which they swing the blues and anything else that these musicians are most widely celebrated. Many of the most enduring examples of Kansas City composition, such as "Moten Swing," were jam session renditions that became memorized "head arrangements." The Southwestern stomp style of which Basie was associated featured 4/4 time in all tempos, riff ensembles and shout-style choruses as well as vocal and instrumental solos. All that Basie had to do was recognize it, and refine it, and bring it out to the rest of the world.

Indeed, Basie's status as a great musician was not a matter of extension and elaboration of blues idiom basics as was the case of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Basie's claim to fame and prestige was based on his refinement of the fundamentals that make jazz music swing.


The Basie hallmark was always simplicity, but it is a simplicity that is the result of a distillation that produced music that was as refined, subtle and elegant as it was earthy and robust. There is no better example of the ungaudy in the work of any other American artist in any medium.

Count Basie's music is not about protest. It is about celebration, and celebration is about achievement, whether material or better still existential (intrinsically personal) and what it generates is a sense of well-being that even becomes exhilaration!

 



 


 

 

 

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