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House Approves Pallone Bill Recognizing William "Count" Basie

September 30, 2004
Press Release

Washington, D.C. --- The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation last night sponsored by U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) that honors the life and musical contributions of renowned jazz pianist and bandleader, William "Count" Basie.

Pallone's legislation marks the 100th anniversary of Count Basie's birth in Red Bank, New Jersey, located in the New Jersey congressman's district. Red Bank is now home to the Count Basie Theatre, a non-profit theatre that works to support community artists and musicians. Pallone worked with the staff at the theatre in drafting the bill.

"This legislation pays tribute to the life and career of an individual who revolutionized the face of jazz music and, to this day, stands as a model for all those that have followed him," Pallone said following passage of the bill. "I am honored to recognize Count Basie, one of Red Bank's most honored sons."

During his speech on the House floor, Pallone recounted Basie's childhood in Red Bank and the Count Basie Theatre's work to keep his legacy alive in New Jersey.

"I want to thank the Count Basie Theatre for its commitment to keeping the music and legacy of Count Basie alive in Red Bank and across the nation," Pallone continued. "Their commitment to community theatre helps to support and inspire a new generation of local musicians. One cannot help but think that this is exactly how the 'Kid from Red Bank' would have liked it."

"We are appreciative that Congressman Pallone stepped up to the plate to honor one of New Jerseys and Americas most famous citizens, William 'Count' Basie," said Regina Paleau, Marketing Director for the Count Basie Theatre. "He is an internationally beloved figure who changed the face of music and jazz. We at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, where Count Basie was born, are dedicated to keeping his memory and legacy alive. Congressmans Pallones resolution will help to ensure that he is not forgotten."

Count Basie and the Count Basie Orchestra dominated the swing era in jazz and set the standard for jazz musical ensembles. Count Basie is considered one of the premiere big band leaders of the era.

Count Basie was born on August 21, 1904 in Red Bank, New Jersey. It was in Red Bank that Basie, at the encouragement of his mother and a local music teacher, first learned piano. As a child, Basie did chores and played piano during films at the Palace Theater in Red Bank. Basie and drummer Sonny Greer were also awarded first place in an Asbury Park piano competition. Years later, Basie would trace his lifelong interest in the organ to his experiences at the Lyric Theater, another theater in Red Bank, where he would listen to the organ played by Henry La Ross.

The city of Red Bank had a significant impact on Basie's early musical development, as evidenced by the title of one of his band's most famous tunes, "The Kid from Red Bank."

In the 1920's, Basie moved to Harlem, New York and learned under jazz greats, such as Thomas "Fats" Waller. Basie perfected a style of piano know as "comping," a highly precise style of chords on the piano. While on tour with a jazz band, Count Basie settled in Kansas City, Missouri where he met the musicians that would create the Count Basie Orchestra. Throughout his career, Count Basie won nine Grammy Awards, as well as the Grammy Trustees award and Lifetime Achievement Award.