Count Basie in 1978 (AP Photo)
Count Basie knew how to swing. From his early years learning piano from his mother to his teen years playing during parties and silent movies, through his decades on the road as the leader of the preeminent big bands, right up until his death Apr. 26, 1984, Basie was a fantastic musician and innovator, always experimenting with ways to keep his big band music on the cutting edge.
Basie played with some of the greats over the years – Billie Holiday, Lester Young, Walter Page, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett – and his sound was always fresh and exciting. Au courant, too – as when he recorded "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit that Ball?" in 1949, the year when the famous No. 42 improved his game immensely and broke the color barrier in the All-Star Game.
Basie knew what his band's formula for greatness was. "I think the band can really swing when it swings easy, when it can just play along like you are cutting butter," Basie wrote in his autobiography. And, man, could Count Basie swing….
"Swingin' the Blues"
"All of Me"
And Basie's signature song, "One O'Clock Jump."