Featured artist: Count Basie

“This to me is Frankie’s legacy. Feeling the rhythm and having a sense of timing in a swinging way is Frankie. Honestly, I know that when you are freed by the rhythm, then you can give your attention to your partner and the music. The worries of the mind disappear, you dance. So once again, it all comes back to the music. It’s the music that gets us out on the dance floor, and music creates the atmosphere we’re drawn to.”

Ramona Staffeld for the Frankie Manning Foundation 

If you’ve seen or tried swing dancing at all, you know that it is intrinsically tied to the music. So we’ve decided to highlight some of our favourite musicians for dancing. This week we’re taking a look at the one, the only, Count Basie!

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Count Basie was born William James Basie in 1904 in Red Bank, New Jersey. His parents were both musicians and he learnt piano at the knee of his mother, Lillian. He continued his training after moving to New York with James P. Johnson and Fats Waller. Basie was first introduced to the big band sound when working with Bennie Moten, and after Moten’s death in 1935 he formed the Count Basie Orchestra.

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The orchestra had a rhythm section that swung hard and Basie’s flair on the piano made them a hit, with popular songs such as “One O’Clock Jump” and “Jumpin’ at the Woodside”. Basie worked with a huge number of incredibly talented musicians such as Lester Young, Jimmy Rushing, Freddie Green, Billy Holiday, Jo Jones, and Ella Fitzgerald, just to name a few. He was the first African-American male recipient of a Grammy award, and would go on to win nine Grammy awards in his lifetime. The orchestra created a huge catalogue of work and played all over the world until Basie’s death in 1984. However, the orchestra continues to play around the world today, currently led by trumpeter Scotty Barnhart.

Here are a few of our favourite Basie tracks for dancing. Just see if you can stay still in your seat!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08jyOwx96Ig