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IJS Celebrates Basie Centennial
With Online Digital Exhibit

Nancy Miller Elliot photographs Count Basie, July 1982.

The Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies (IJS) is celebrating the centennial of Count Basie's birth by unveiling an online exhibit that allows visitors to hear his music and view scenes of his life.

One More Once': A Centennial Celebration of the Life and Music of Count Basie marks the fourth of the Institute's Jazz Greats Digital Exhibits. The project began in 1999 with alto saxophonist/arranger Benny Carter, and continued with web sites on pianist/composer/arranger Mary Lou Williams (2001) and the stride pianist and composer Fats Waller (2002).

'One More Once' is online at http://newarkwww.rutgers.edu/ijs/cb/index.html.

In addition to horizontal panels of historic images and brief samples of music dating from 1929 to 1983, the work of many outstanding jazz photographers yields a photojournalistic account of Basie and his illustrious sidemen in a series of "Flash galleries." Photographic essays cover each decade, beginning with the Basie band's historic appearances at the Famous Door in New York in 1938 and continuing up to a series of photographs of Basie in a dressing room at Carnegie Hall in July 1982, two years before his death.

IJS associate director Ed Berger and archivist Tad Hershorn, along with Edwin Vitery (a recent Rutgers graduate), produced the web site. The exhibit includes specially reproduced images from the archives of Frank Driggs and from Getty images. The site also benefits from the participation of Peabody Award-winning radio producer Jim Luce and his Count Basie Centennial Radio Project, currently airing on National Public Radio whose web site carries a link to the IJS project. IJS director Dan Morgenstern and Hershorn wrote the text to give an overview of Basie's career.

From the time of the Count Basie Orchestra surged out of Kansas City in 1936 and brought his irrepressible mixture of blues and swing to the nation until his death in 1984, Basie and his bands were a touchstone of jazz. The Basie touch was noted for the infallible sense of time and swing that made the band a favorite of dancers, and the many stellar soloists who went on to important careers of their own. "The Basie hallmark was always simplicity, but it is a simplicity that is the result of a distillation that produced music that was as refined, subtle and elegant as it was earthy and robust," wrote Albert Murray, who joined the Red Bank, New Jersey native in creating his autobiography, Good Morning Blues, and contributed a special essay to this web site.

Basie weathered many fashions in jazz over the decades. Although he was forced to lead a small group for two years beginning in 1950 due to the decline of the big bands, he roared back in 1952 with what would become one of his most successful bands. Basie earned the reputation as a singers' band in the 1960s, not least due to his discovery of singer Joe Williams in 1954, and touring and recording with Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan and Tony Bennett. From the early 1970s until 1984, Basie enjoyed a renaissance of his recordings and the band continued to tour internationally. Basie's music has been kept alive in the twenty years since his death by a band

The Jazz Greats Digital Exhibits are co-produced by the Institute of Jazz Studies and the Dana Library Media and Digital Services. The Institute of Jazz Studies is a research branch of the John Cotton Dana Library on the Newark Campus of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and part of Rutgers University Libraries.

For additional information, contact Tad Hershorn at IJS, 973/353-5595, or at hershorn@andromeda.rutgers.edu.

Posted September 1, 2004