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The Count Basie Orchestra


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Kansas City MO, United States (1936 – 1950, 1952 – present)

The Count Basie Orchestra is a 16 to 18 piece big band, one of the most prominent jazz performing groups of the swing era, founded by Count Basie. The band survived the late-forties decline in big band popularity and went on to produce notable collaborations with singers such as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald in the fifties and sixties. The group continues to perform and record even after Basie’s death in 1984.

Early years

Count Basie arrived in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1927 playing on the Theater Owners Bookers Association (TOBA) circuit.[1] After playing with the Blue Devils, he joined rival band leader Bennie Moten’s band. Upon Moten’s death, Basie left the group to start his own band, taking many of his colleagues from the Moten band with him. This nine-piece group consisted of Joe Keyes and Oran ‘Hot Lips’ Page on trumpet, Buster Smith and Jack Washington on alto saxophone, Lester Young on tenor saxophone, Dan Minor on trombone, and a rhythm section made up of Jo Jones on drums, Walter Page on bass and Basie himself on piano. With this band, then named ‘The Barons of Rhythm’, Basie brought the sound of the infamous and highly competitive Kansas City ‘jam session’ to club audiences, coupling extended improvised solos with riff-based accompaniments from the band. The group’s first venue was the Reno Club in Kansas City, later moving to the Grand Terrace in Chicago.

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