count basie

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DY’s childish games making TY brighten his mood  

William JamesCountBasie (August 21, 1904 – April 26, 1984)

Portrait of jazz pianist and big band and orchestra leader Count Basie. Printed on front: “Count Basie. Foto: Bengt H. Malmqvist.” Handwritten on back: “Orkester Journalen, 1-59.”

  • Courtesy of the E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts, Detroit Public Library

Count Basie’s band from Kansas City reached New York in December of 1936. Musicians took to them immediately, but the general public took a bit longer. Basie’s big break came in July 1938, when the band started broadcasting from the 52nd Street club the Famous Door. Music from those broadcasts makes up half of a new sampler of live Basie from the period. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says it’s choice:

“Basie specialized in the brand of blues that laughs at trouble. The music’s exceptional buoyancy stemmed from a four-piece rhythm section, with Basie on piano. Folks often say rhythm guitarist Freddie Green was more felt than heard. But sometimes his chomping beat came through loud and clear.”