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BLACK HISTORY MONTH IN NJ: We Salute Red Bank's William 'Count' Basie

Red Bank

By: Richard L. Smith 

The following is information obtained from Rowan University's Campbell Library:

"William James "Count" Basie was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer born and raised in Red Bank, NJ.

He played vaudeville before eventually forming his own big band and helping to define the era of swing with hits like "One O'Clock Jump" and "Blue Skies."

In 1958, Basie became the first African-American male recipient of a Grammy Award. One of jazz music's all-time greats, he won many other Grammys throughout his career and worked with a plethora of artists, including Joe Williams and Ella Fitzgerald.

Basie played the vaudevillian circuit early in his career and eventually became stuck in Kansas City in the mid-1920s. He ultimately met bandleader Walter Page, was introduced to big band jazz, and later worked with Benny Motten.

Basie formed his band after Motten's death in 1935.

He called his band the Barons of Rhythm. During a radio broadcast of the band's performance, he got his nickname when the announcer wanted to give Basie's name some pizazz. Keeping in mind the existence of other bandleaders like Duke Ellington and Earl Hines, he called the pianist "Count."

The band became known for its soloists, rhythm section, and swing style. Basie himself was noted for his understated yet captivating style of piano playing and precise, impeccable musical leadership.

He led one of the day's most prominent, most influential African-American jazz groups".

INFORMATION & IMAGE CREDIT: Rowan University Library

SPONSORS: Metro Media Institute of Harrison, Nino's Pizza, Bergen Street Harrison, NJ, and William Paterson University