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

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.

Early in his career, Basie played the vaudevillian circuit and eventually became stuck in Kansas City in the mid-1920s. He ultimately met bandleader Walter Page and was introduced to big band jazz, and later went on to work with Benny Motten. Basie formed his band after Motten's death in 1935.

He called his band the Barons of Rhythm. He got his nickname during a radio broadcast of the band's performance 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 style of swing. Basie himself was noted for his understated yet captivating style of piano playing and precise, impeccable musical leadership. He led one of the most prominent, most influential African-American jazz groups of the day".

INFORMATION & IMAGE CREDIT: Rowan University Library

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