Count Basie was one of America's foremost bandleaders, and he helped lead [big band](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/big-band-music-guide) music from the swing era into the [jazz music](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-jazz) of the mid-twentieth century. Basie was best known as the founder of the Count Basie Orchestra, which he helmed for more than 50 years.\n\nCount Basie was considered a contemporary (and friendly rival) of [Duke Ellington](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/duke-ellingtons-life-and-music). Their groups—along with forebears like the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra and the Bennie Moten Kansas City Orchestra—helped make big band music one of America's most popular genres in the 1930s and 1940s.\n\nOver the course of his musical career, Count Basie collaborated with a wide array of jazz musicians, some of whom were featured soloists in his band. This included Lester Young, Herschel "Tex" Evans, Buck Clayton, Freddie Green, Walter Page, Jo Jones, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Al Grey, Jimmy Rushing, Joe Williams, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra.\nWilliam "Count" Basie was born in Red Bank, New Jersey in 1904 but is most associated with Kansas City and New York City. As a teenager, he played piano and drums and was a childhood friend of future Ellington big band drummer Sonny Greer. \n\n- __Basie found inspiration in the Harlem Renaissance__. In his late teens, Basie moved to Harlem, where the Harlem Renaissance spawned early jazz music. In Harlem, he met jazz legends like Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, and James P. Johnson. Before long, multiple touring bands hired Basie as a pianist, and he played everything from swing to vaudeville. \n- __As a young musician, Basie made connections in the Midwest__. In 1929, Basie joined Tulsa big band Walter Page's Blue Devils. The following year, he was hired as the pianist and co-arranger for the Kansas City Orchestra, led by Benny Moten. Through the Moten band, he met several future collaborators, including drummer Jo Jones, bassist Walter Page, guitarist Freddie Green, vocalist Jimmy Rushing, and legendary tenor saxophonist Lester Young.\n- __Count Basie took his band from Kansas City to Chicago__. Basie worked out of Kansas City from 1929 to 1936, at which point he moved his band to Chicago, a jazz and blues music capital. When recordings from a 1936 session were released on Vocalion Records, Basie’s sides were lauded for their rhythm section and the tenor saxophone wizardry. \n- __New York City offered additional success__. In 1937, the Count Basie Big Band began booking dates in New York City and started recording with Decca Records. The group played at venues such as the Savoy and the Roseland Ballroom. Eventually, the Benny Goodman Orchestra released a cover of the Basie original "One O'Clock Jump'' as a single.\n- __Big band music’s popularity declined in the postwar era__. Count Basie and His Orchestra were in high demand throughout the late 1930s and early 1940s, but following World War II, interest in big band music began to wane. Basie disbanded his orchestra and began playing with smaller combos. \n- __Count Basie used his connections to stay relevant in the ’50s__. Basie rekindled his orchestra as a new band featuring top players. He teamed up with prominent vocalists, including Joe Williams, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tony Bennett. He also used outside arrangers, such as Benny Carter, Neal Hefti, and a young Quincy Jones. \n- __Count Basie developed a lasting legacy__. Count Basie retired to Hollywood, Florida where he died in 1984 at age 79. He has four records in the Grammy Hall of Fame and was the first Black American to win a Grammy award.\nCount Basie's music is remembered for the following characteristics.\n\n1. __Stellar rhythm sections__: At one point, Basie named his group Count Basie and His Barons of Rhythm, which emphasized the priority he put on his rhythm section. He was associated with drummer Jo Jones for much of his career.\n2. __Split saxophones__: Beginning with the tenor saxophone pairing of Lester Young and Herschel "Tex" Evans, Basie began a tradition of letting his players trade solos in a "battle" style competition. He would split them to opposite sides of the stage to enhance the duel. Audiences loved it, and many other bands adopted this method.\n3. __Jumping beat__: Basie's bands were known for a "jump" from the rhythm section and from Basie's own playing as a piano accompanist.\n4. __Inventive arrangements__: Basie took great care with his orchestrations and arrangements. Later in his career, he hired outside arrangers, like Quincy Jones and Neal Hefti, to infuse his group with new ideas. \nOver the course of his long and varied career, Count Basie became known for a particular set of standards. These include:\n\n__"Lester Leaps In"__: recorded in 1939 as Count Basie's Kansas City Seven \n__"Good Morning Blues"__: released in 1937 as Count Basie and His Orchestra\n__"Every Day (I Have the Blues)"__: from *Every Day I Have the Blue*s, recorded in 1959 with Joe Williams\n__"April in Paris"__: from *April in Paris*, released in 1956\n__"One O'Clock Jump"__: first recorded in 1937 \n__"Jumpin' at the Woodside"__: recorded in 1938 as the Count Basie Orchestra\nBecome a better musician with the [MasterClass Annual Membership](https://www.masterclass.com). Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by the world’s best, including Herbie Hancock, Itzhak Perlman, St. Vincent, Sheila E., Timbaland, Tom Morello, and more.\n\nCount Basie was a bandleader and pianist who was at the forefront of American big band music in the mid-twentieth century.