Count Basie

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William 'Count' Basie was one of the most important bandleaders of the swing era.

Initially a virtuosic stride pianist, he joined Bennie Moten's band in 1930 - Moten, himself a pianist, allowed Basie to take over the piano chair, and it was with Basie on piano that the group recorded its seminal 1932 sides.

After Moten's death in 1935, Basie formed his own band with many of the same personnel. He recorded under his own name for the first time in 1936 - the driving rhythm section of Walter Page, Jo Jones and Freddie Green transformed the way jazz was felt, whilst the economical, melodic solos of Lester Young provided an inspiration to the young musicians who would later develop bebop.

Basie himself became known for a piano style that was sparse and whimsical, achieving great effect with just a few notes - this was in contrast to his earlier breathtaking two-fisted stride technique.

Basie's band went on to become one of the most popular of all big bands, achieving its greatest success in the 1950s after most other big bands were struggling in the face of competition from new jazz forms and rock'n'roll. In particular the album The Atomic Mr. Basie was highly successful.

Basie continued performing and releasing music until his death in 1983.