Essential Jazz Feature

The Count: Swingingly Royal

Count Basie was a singularly talented, quintessential jazz icon whose marvelously superb career spanned some 50 years. Basie was one of the definitive, creative architects of the big swing band era.

The Count's illustrous career shifted in high gear in Kansas City, which was known in the '30s as "Paris of the Plains," and resembled the Wild, Wild West." In coming year, decades, Count Basie became a jazz legend and a global super star.

The Count Basie Orchestra received 17 Grammy Awards, performed at three Presidential Inaguarations (George Bush, Sr., Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter) and a Royal Command Performance for the Queen of England.

Basie, who had a quiet demeanor, had a knack for finding and persuading musicians to perform with his band. He was known for encouraging band members and willingly sharing the spotlight with them. Basie was also one of the first band leader to hire women vocalists.

The musicians -- contemporaries, friends and collaborators -- Count worked with over the years reads like a Who's Who of jazz and popular music: Fats Waller, Jimmy Rushing, Mildred Bailey, Helen Humes, Mary Lou Williams, Sarah Vaughan, Joe Jones, Thad Jones, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Freddie Green, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, Jackie Wilson, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Frank Sinatra.

Basie's music is a joyous celebration of life. And, in 2004, the Count Basie Centennial year, there was a number of memorable celebrations.

The following are some standing pages that feature Count Basie Centennial Commemorations.

Count Basie Centennial
(Rutgers University's Institute of Jazz Studies (

Chicago Public Radio

Count Basie Centennial
Featuring Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (

The Basie Centennial Ball

Count Basie Orchestra (

Count Basie Biography

Extensive Count Basie Discography

© L'cinda Scott-McCall