Sunday, August 21, 2011

Making it Count

By Al Tays

Let's talk a little Count Basie, given that today marks 107 years since he was born in Red Bank, N.J., in 1904. Now, Basie's a little before my time (yes, such a thing is possible), but he is clearly in the first column of immortal American music artists.

You can always count on
Al Tays, but you really
have to wonder what sort 
of trouble he might start
while Strumbum is out 
on assignment (heh, heh).
There was a time when I wouldn't have known Count Basie from The Count on Sesame Street (except that only one of them dressed like a pimp, as Dave Chappelle points out). I got a little more curious about Basie after acquiring Tony Bennett's outstanding 2001 album, Playin' With My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues, which included "Old Count Basie Was Gone."

But it wasn't until the other day, noting the anniversary of Basie's birth, that I did some reading about him. Interesting nuggets: He might have become a drummer rather than a pianist, but there was another drummer in the Red Bank area, Sonny Greer, who reigned supreme and Basie decided not to challenge him, turning to the piano. Also, Basie learned how to play the organ from Fats Waller.

But enough talk. You can't appreciate Basie without hearing him. Even though "One O'Clock Jump" was, along with "April in Paris," one of his theme songs, I prefer this "Basie Boogie." It's one of the few Basie clips I could find with a guitar player, although this one is strictly consigned to a rhythm role. But no worries — good music is good music, no matter the instruments.

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