GOOD MORNING BLUES: The Autobiography of Count Basie by Count with Albert Murray Basie

GOOD MORNING BLUES: The Autobiography of Count Basie

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Like Basie's music, his as-told-to autobiography is decidedly upbeat and life-affirming. But this all-American success story, unlike the sounds it celebrates, seldom swings. Basic and co-author novelist and essayist Murray stick strictly to the public record: lists of personnel, dates of performances and recordings, tour itineraries. Though the Baseman came to be identified with the Kansas City sound in the 30's, he grew up in Red Bank, N.J., and cut his teeth playing back-up piano for vaudeville acts in the 20's while still a teen-ager. A Harlem interlude, including a brief apprenticeship with Fats Waller and James P. Johnson, prepared the pre-royal William Basic for a life on the road with some of the biggest, swingingest bands of the time. Determined from the start, the ambitious Count hooked up with Walter Paige's Blue Devils while he pondered the next challenge: how to join Bennie Moten's even hotter band when the leader himself was a pianist. Pluck and luck (Moten liked Basie's arrangements and was later glad to perform less) found Basie not only developing his own chops, but also forming the relationships that would contribute to the band he more or less inherited after Moten's death. During the 30's and 40's, Basie collaborated with many of the greatest names in American Jazz: Lester Young, Jimmy Rushing, and Billie Holliday to name a few. His steady rise to fame was hastened by the selfless jazz aficionado John Hammond, whose advice on bookings, radio hookups, and recordings helped Basie become a household name. Right up until his heart attack in 1977, Basie maintained a grueling, international schedule that remained for him what touring with a band always had been--a gas. Humble, but magnanimous to a fault (everyone's ""wonderful,"" ""special,"" or ""great""), Basie here avoids gossip at any cost. As a result, few of jazz's cool personalities come to life; nor does its hot ambiance ever sizzle in these pages. Racism and drugs, mere ""occupational hazards"" in his co-author's words, never appear in this testament to the high seriousness of the greatest American art form. Unlike Ellington's Music is My Mistress, or Holliday's Lady Sings the Blues, this fact-ridden memoir is strictly for jazz buffs and musicologists.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1985
ISBN: 0306811073
Publisher: Random House