William James "Count" Basie (August 21,
1904 – April 26, 1984[1]) was an American
jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and
composer. His mother taught him to play the
piano and he started performing in his
teens. Dropping out of school, he learned to
operate lights for vaudeville and to
improvise accompaniment for silent films at
a local movie theater in his home town of
Red Bank, New Jersey. By 16, he
increasingly played jazz piano at parties,
resorts and other venues. In 1924, he went
to Harlem, where his performing career
expanded; he toured with groups to the
major jazz cities of Chicago, St. Louis and
Kansas City. In 1929 he joined Bennie
Moten's band in Kansas City, and played
with them until Moten's death in 1935.
That year Basie formed his own jazz
orchestra, and in 1936 took them to
Chicago for a long engagement and their
first recording. He led the group for almost
50 years, creating innovations like the use
of two "split" tenor saxophones, emphasizing
the rhythm section, riffing with a big band,
using arrangers to broaden their sound,
and others. Many notable musicians came
to prominence under his direction, including
the tenor saxophonists Lester Young and
Herschel Evans, the guitarist Freddie
Green, trumpeters Buck Clayton and Harry
"Sweets" Edison and singers Jimmy Rushing
and Joe Williams. Basie's theme songs were
"One O'Clock Jump," developed in 1935 in
the early days of his band, and "April In
Wikipedia Artist Biography - Count Basie
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