Red Bank organizations join forces to celebrate William “Count” Basie’s birthday August 21


(RED BANK) In commemoration of the 118th anniversary of his birth, a number of Red Bank organizations will join forces on Sunday, August 21 to celebrate the legacy of William James “Count” Basie.

The Jazz Arts Project, in conjunction with the Red Bank 365 Westside Jazz Committee, T. Thomas Fortune Foundation & Cultural Center and Monmouth Arts, will present “One O’Clock Jump” at 1PM at Red Bank’s West Side Johnny Jazz Park, located at the corner of Drs. James Parker Blvd and Shrewsbury Avenue. The Jazz Arts Academy Allstars, the Chuck Lambert Band and Radam Schwartz Organ Big Band will perform. The showcase is part of the Jazz Arts Projects’ summertime Sunday In The Park With Jazz series.

The Jazz Arts Project is a partner program of the Count Basie Center for the Arts, offering classes through its Academy of the Arts, and partnering with the performing arts center to present the annual, free Louis & Gia Maione Prima Music Camp.

William James "Count" Basie“The Kid from Red Bank”

William Basie was born at 229 Mechanic Street on August 21, 1904. His father, Harvey Lee Basie, was a coachman and caretaker; his mother, Lillian Childs Basie, was a laundress, taking in washing and ironing. The Basie piano kept a piano in their home, and it’s said that Ms. Basie always made sure to set aside .25 cents for William to take weekly lessons. As a teenager, Basie found work doing odd jobs at Red Bank’s now-defunct Palace Theatre. On the afternoon the Palace’s house pianist failed to show for work, Basie offered to fill in – but was denied.

Nonetheless persistent, the young Basie waited for the film to start, crept into the orchestra pit, and accompanied the film anyway. He was invited back to perform that evening.

The rest, they say, is history.

The man who would become known as “The Kid From Red Bank” relocated to the jazz hot spot of Kansas City, MO and began his ascent to fame. His Count Basie Orchestra performed worldwide to audiences that included kings, queens and presidents, with the ensemble’s dizzying, energetic sound becoming the stuff of legend. The Basie Orchestra’s recordings – including “One O’Clock Jump,” “Jumpin’ At the Woodside,” “Taxi War Dance,” and “Lester Leaps In,” marked the peak of the Kansas City sound.

In 1983, Basie made his last performance at what was once known as the Carlton Theatre / Monmouth Arts Center, just nine days removed from the death of his second wife, Catherine, with whom he had been married 43 years. A year later, Basie succumbed to cancer at the age of 79, and was buried in Pine Lawn Cemetery in Farmingdale, Long Island, New York.

In November 1984, the Monmouth Arts Center was renamed to honor Basie, then wholly recognized as Red Bank’s most famous son. Today, Basie’s name presides over the entirety of the not-for-profit Count Basie Center for the Arts, and its mission is to inspire, educate and entertain through its distinct and engaging cultural and artistic offerings that embrace and amplify the diversity of the region.