William James Basie was born on this day (August 21) in Red Bank, New Jersey, in 1904. You know him as “Count.” The hugely influential bandleader pioneered a style of pared-down, improvisation-based big band music that came to define much of the swing era. His songs were simple yet elegant, and they have stood the test of time. Today, they remain some of the most famous songs in the big band repertoire. Chief among Basie’s incredible musical feats is the fact that he led his signature group — The Count Basie Orchestra — for more than 50 years. During that time he fostered some of the most immense musical talents in jazz, including saxophonist Lester Young, trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison and vocalist Joe Williams.
“One O’Clock Jump,” our Song of the Day, is perhaps Basie’s most famous composition (though some would certainly argue for “April in Paris“). It’s playful, ebullient and carries with it an effortless sense of swing, much like Basie himself. Happy birthday to a true jazz hero.