For the last 11 years, I’ve been honored to run the estate of the late, great bandleader, Count Basie. One of the undisputed joys of this assignment has been getting to know the leadership of the Count Basie Orchestra and getting to hear the Band whenever they’re in town.
And I’m thrilled to let you know that they’ve just won a Grammy Award for Best Large Ensemble Jazz Album for Basie Swings the Blues, which came out last year. Count Basie himself won Best Jazz Performance during the first Grammy Awards in 1958 and now they’ve won the most recent (with 17 Grammys in between!).
Who was Count Basie? You might ask. He was one of the most important big band leaders of the 20th century. The Basie Band, which toured over 300 nights a year, established swing as the predominant music style for several decades and made the world want to dance.
They recorded over 480 albums. Basie himself was a pianist with impeccable timing – he didn’t play a lot of notes, but the notes he played were perfect. He led the Orchestra for 50 years with humility, love, and a shared commitment to excellence. And it is still going strong, touring and performing, nearly 40 years after his death.
That is a testament to Count Basie himself, and to the love the band members have toward the music, the tradition, and for each other. It is also a testament to the Band’s leadership. My friend and colleague, Dee Askew, has been booking the band since Basie was alive, and it has been led for over 10 years, by Scotty Barnhart. Several members have been with the Band for over 20 years.
Each time I go to hear them, I think, ‘I don’t know what the politics are of the other people in this room. I don’t know what they are going through or what they care about. But I do know that they are tapping their feet – I do know that everyone in this room feels happy right now.’
So no matter where you are in your life now, I wanted to share this little moment of happiness with you! After all, isn’t the blues all about relationships and figuring out what to do when your love has done you wrong? To hear a snippet, Look What You’ve Done!