Giant Steps: Jazz Greats
Courtesy of Culver Pictures.
Like Duke Ellington, Count Basie was a successful piano player and bandleader who became an icon of big-band style and popular jazz music. At first torn between a stage and a musical career, Basie devoted himself completely to music after being exposed to the Kansas City blues style that flourished during Prohibition in the 1920s. Blending the Kansas City influence with his experience playing stride piano in Harlem, Basie formed a successful big band that drew national attention through radio broadcasts. Basie went on to lead his band for nearly fifty years, continuing to play swing and big-band jazz at a time when many other groups were disbanding due to shifting musical tastes. Basie's willingness to integrate his band into mainstream American music led to collaborations with such popular icons as Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, and to thirty European tours.