THE JAZZ INVASION
Collect all the t-shirts from the historic show THE JAZZ INVASION. Be apart of the MOVEMENT that is changing the face of history.
When Basie took his orchestra to New York in 1937, they made the Woodside Hotel in Harlem their base (they often rehearsed in its basement). Soon, they were booked at the Roseland Ballroom for the Christmas show. Basie recalled a review, which said something like, "We caught the great Count Basie band which is supposed to be so hot he was going to come in here and set the Roseland on fire. Well, the Roseland is still standing". Compared to the reigning band of Fletcher Henderson, Basie's band lacked polish and presentation.
The producer John Hammond continued to advise and encourage the band, and they soon came up with some adjustments, including softer playing, more solos, and more standards. They paced themselves to save their hottest numbers for later in the show, to give the audience a chance to warm up. His first official recordings for Decca followed, under contract to agent MCA, including "Pennies from Heaven" and "Honeysuckle Rose"
The publicity over the big band battle, before and after, gave the Basie band a boost and wider recognition. Soon after, Benny Goodman recorded their signature "One O'Clock Jump" with his band.
A few months later, Holiday left for Artie Shaw's band. Hammond introduced Helen Humes, whom Basie hired; she stayed with Basie for four years. When Eddie Durham left for Glenn Miller's orchestra, he was replaced by Dicky Wells. Basie's 14-man band began playing at the Famous Door, a mid-town nightspot with a CBS network feed and air conditioning, which Hammond was said to have bought the club in return for their booking Basie steadily throughout the summer of 1938. Their fame took a huge leap. Adding to their play book, Basie received arrangements from Jimmy Mundy (who had also worked with Benny Goodman and Earl Hines),
Hammond introduced Basie to Billie Holiday, whom he invited to sing with the band. (Holiday did not record with Basie, as she had her own record contract and preferred working with small combos). The band's first appearance at the Apollo Theater followed, with the vocalists Holiday and Jimmy Rushing getting the most attention. Durham returned to help with arranging and composing, but for the most part, the orchestra worked out its numbers in rehearsal, with Basie guiding the proceedings. There were often no musical notations made. Once the musicians found what they liked, they usually were able to repeat it using their "head arrangements" and collective memory.
Next, Basie played at the Savoy, which was noted more for lindy-hopping, while the Roseland was a place for fox-trots and congas. In early 1938, the Savoy was the meeting ground for a "battle of the bands" with Chick Webb's group. Basie had Holiday, and Webb countered with the singer Ella Fitzgerald. As Metronome magazine proclaimed, "Basie's Brilliant Band Conquers Chick's"; the article described the evening:
Throughout the fight, which never let down in its intensity during the whole fray, Chick took the aggressive, with the Count playing along easily and, on the whole, more musically scientifically. Undismayed by Chick's forceful drum beating, which sent the audience into shouts of encouragement and appreciation and casual beads of perspiration to drop from Chick's brow onto the brass cymbals, the Count maintained an attitude of poise and self-assurance. He constantly parried Chick's thundering haymakers with tantalizing runs and arpeggios which teased more and more force from his adversary.
William Basie was born to Lillian and Harvey Lee Basie in Red Bank, New Jersey. His father worked as a coachman and caretaker for a wealthy judge. After automobiles replaced horses, his father became a groundskeeper and handyman for several wealthy families in the area. Both of his parents had some type of musical background. His father played the mellophone, and his mother played the piano; in fact, she gave Basie his first piano lessons. She took in laundry and baked cakes for sale for a living. She paid 25 cents a lesson for Count Basie's piano instruction.
William James "Count" Basie (August 21, 1904 – April 26, 1984)[ was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer. In 1935, he formed the Count Basie 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.
The best student in school, Basie dreamed of a traveling life, inspired by touring carnivals which came to town. He finished junior high school but spent much of his time at the Palace Theater in Red Bank, where doing occasional chores gained him free admission to performances. He quickly learned to improvise music appropriate to the acts and the silent movies.
Though a natural at the piano, Basie preferred drums. Discouraged by the obvious talents of Sonny Greer, who also lived in Red Bank and became Duke Ellington's drummer in 1919, Basie switched to piano exclusively at age 15.
By then, Basie's sound was characterized by a "jumping" beat and the contrapuntal accents of his own piano. His personnel around 1937 included: Lester Young and Herschel Evans (tenor sax), Freddie Green (guitar), Jo Jones (drums), Walter Page (bass), Earle Warren (alto sax), Buck Clayton and Harry Edison (trumpet), Benny Morton and Dickie Wells (trombone). Lester Young, known as "Prez" by the band, came up with nicknames for all the other band members. He called Basie "Holy Man", "Holy Main", and just plain "Holy". Basie favored blues, and he would showcase some of the most notable blues singers of the era after he went to New York: Billie Holiday, Jimmy Rushing, Big Joe Turner, Helen Humes, and Joe Williams. He also hired arrangers who knew how to maximize the band's abilities, such as Eddie Durham and Jimmy Mundy.
At the end of 1936, Basie and his band, now billed as Count Basie and His Barons of Rhythm, moved from Kansas City to Chicago, where they honed their repertoire at a long engagement at the Grand Terrace Ballroom. Right from the start, Basie's band was known for its rhythm section. Another Basie innovation was the use of two tenor saxophone players; at the time, most bands had just one. When Young complained of Herschel Evans' vibrato, Basie placed them on either side of the alto players, and soon had the tenor players engaged in "duels". Many other bands later adapted the split tenor arrangement.
In that city in October 1936, the band had a recording session which the producer John Hammond later described as "the only perfect, completely perfect recording session I've ever had anything to do with". Hammond first heard Basie's band on the radio and went to Kansas City to check them out. He invited them to record, in performances which were Lester Young's earliest recordings. Those four sides were released on Vocalion Records under the band name of Jones-Smith Incorporated; the sides were "Shoe Shine Boy", "Evening", "Boogie Woogie", and "Oh Lady Be Good". After Vocalion became a subsidiary of Columbia Records in 1938, "Boogie Woogie" was released in 1941 as part of a four-record compilation album entitled Boogie Woogie (Columbia album C44). When he made the Vocalion recordings, Basie had already signed with Decca Records, but did not have his first recording session with them until January 1937.
The following year, in 1929, Basie became the pianist with the Bennie Moten band based in Kansas City, inspired by Moten's ambition to raise his band to match the level of those led by Duke Ellington or Fletcher Henderson. Where the Blue Devils were "snappier" and more "bluesy," the Moten band was more refined and respected, playing in the "Kansas City stomp" style. In addition to playing piano, Basie was co-arranger with Eddie Durham, who notated the music. Their "Moten Swing", which Basie claimed credit for, was an invaluable contribution to the development of swing music, and at one performance at the Pearl Theatre in Philadelphia in December 1932, the theatre opened its door to allow anybody in who wanted to hear the band perform.
During a stay in Chicago, Basie recorded with the band. He occasionally played four-hand piano and dual pianos with Moten, who also conducted. The band improved with several personnel changes, including the addition of tenor saxophonist Ben Webster.
When the band voted Moten out, Basie took over for several months, calling the group Count Basie and his Cherry Blossoms. When his own band folded, he rejoined Moten with a newly re-organized band. A year later, Basie joined Bennie Moten's band, and played with them until Moten died in 1935 from a failed tonsillectomy. The band tried to stay together but failed. Basie then formed his own nine-piece band, Barons of Rhythm, with many former Moten members including Walter Page (bass), Freddie Green (guitar), Jo Jones (drums), Lester Young (tenor saxophone) and Jimmy Rushing (vocals).
The Barons of Rhythm were regulars at the Reno Club and often performed for a live radio broadcast. During a broadcast the announcer wanted to give Basie's name some style, so he called him "Count." It positioned him with Earl Hines, as well as Duke Ellington.
(Basie later played organ at the Eblon Theater in Kansas City). As he did with Duke Ellington, Willie "the Lion" Smith helped Basie out during the lean times by arranging gigs at "house-rent parties," introducing him to other leading musicians, and teaching him some piano technique.
In 1928, Basie was in Tulsa and heard Walter Page and his Famous Blue Devils, one of the first big bands, which featured Jimmy Rushing on vocals. A few months later, he was invited to join the band, which played mostly in Texas and Oklahoma. It was at this time that he began to be known as "Count" Basie (see Jazz royalty).
Around 1920, Basie went to Harlem, a hotbed of jazz, where he lived down the block from the Alhambra Theater. Early after his arrival, he bumped into Sonny Greer, who was by then the drummer for the Washingtonians, Duke Ellington's early band. Soon, Basie met many of the Harlem musicians who were "making the scene," including Willie "the Lion" Smith and James P. Johnson.
Basie toured in several acts between 1925 and 1927, including Katie Krippen and Her Kiddies (featuring singer Katie Crippen) as part of the Hippity Hop show; on the Keith, the Columbia Burlesque, and the Theater Owners Bookers Association (T.O.B.A.) vaudeville circuits; and as a soloist and accompanist to blues singer Gonzelle White as well as Crippen.
Greer and Basie played together in venues until Greer set out on his professional career. By then, Basie was playing with pick-up groups for dances, resorts, and amateur shows, including Harry Richardson's "Kings of Syncopation". When not playing a gig, he hung out at the local pool hall with other musicians, where he picked up on upcoming play dates and gossip. He got some jobs in Asbury Park at the Jersey Shore, and played at the Hong Kong Inn until a better player took his place.
His touring took him to Kansas City, St. Louis, New Orleans, and Chicago. Throughout his tours, Basie met many jazz musicians, including Louis Armstrong. Before he was 20 years old, he toured extensively on the Keith and TOBA vaudeville circuits as a solo pianist, accompanist, and music director for blues singers, dancers, and comedians. This provided an early training that was to prove significant in his later career.
Back in Harlem in 1925, Basie gained his first steady job at Leroy's, a place known for its piano players and its "cutting contests." The place catered to "uptown celebrities," and typically the band winged every number without sheet music using "head arrangements." He met Fats Waller, who was playing organ at the Lincoln Theater accompanying silent movies, and Waller taught him how to play that instrument.