William James “Count” Basie was a jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer. His mother taught him to play the piano and he started performing in his teens. By age 16, he played jazz piano at parties and resorts.
In 1935, Basie formed his own jazz band, the Count Basie Orchestra, and in 1936 took them to Chicago for a long engagement and their first recording. Basie created 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. Basie helped start many great musicians 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.
Every top singer from Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Williams loved to sing with the Basie Band.
This is the modern day Count Basie Orchestra captured live.