Count Basie and his Orchestra – live at Birdland – January 6, 1953 – NBC Radio: Stars In Jazz – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Count Basie this weekend. Recorded for the NBC Radio series Stars In Jazz at the legendary Birdland in Manhattan on January 6, 1953.
Though Basie’s initial intentions were to become a drummer, his ambitions in that direction were forever erased after hearing drummer Sonny Greer from Long Branch. Greer, who later rose to fame as the drummer for the Duke Ellington Orchestra, was so obviously superior to Basie that he made a hasty retreat to the piano. The men became friends and formed a duo.
In 1950, financial considerations forced Basie to disband the orchestra. But by 1952 he reorganized the band, and the “second” Count Basie Orchestra was considered as exciting, vibrant and even more important than the first. The new outfit toured internationally, playing at the request of kings, queens and presidents, and issued a large number of recordings under Basie’s name and as the backing band for various singers — most notably Frank Sinatra.
After more than thirty years in the business, Basie made some of his most popular and critically-acclaimed work, including “April in Paris,” “Shiny Stockings,” “L’il Darling,” “Corner Pocket,” and even a hit single, “Everyday I Have the Blues,” with singer Big Joe Williams.
In 1961, Basie solidified his iconic status by performing at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy.
Over a sixty-plus year career, William “Count” Basie helped to establish jazz as a serious art form played not just in clubs but in theaters and concert halls. He established swing as one of jazz’s predominant styles, and solidified the link between jazz and the blues. Compared to the more complex, almost symphonic compositions and arrangements of some of the other leading bandleaders and composers of his time, most notably Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson, the Basie band’s arrangements were usually straightforward “head arrangements,” based on a simple riff or melody (the “head”) made up and memorized by the band in rehearsal, and later played in performance as the background for soloists.
Hit the play button, sit back and relax – everything is under control – Count Basie’s in the house.