William "Count" Basie (August 21, 1904 – April 26, 1984) was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer. His mother first taught him piano and he started performing in his teens. Dropping out of school, he learned to operate lights for vaudeville and improvised to accompany silent films at a local theatre in his town of Red Bank, New Jersey. By 16, he increasingly played jazz piano at parties, resorts and other venues. In 1924, he went to Harlem, where his performing career expanded; he toured with groups to the major jazz cities of Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City. In 1929 he joined Bennie Moten's band in Kansas City, and played with them until Moten's death in 1935. That year Basie formed his own jazz orchestra, and in 1936 took them to Chicago for a long engagement and their first recording. He led the group for almost 50 years, creating innovations like the use of two "split" tenor saxophones, emphasizing the rhythm section, riffing with a big band, using arrangers to broaden their sound, and others. Many notable musicians came to prominence under his direction, including the tenor saxophonists Lester Young and Herschel Evans, the guitarist Freddie Green, trumpeters Buck Clayton and Harry "Sweets" Edison and singers Jimmy Rushing and Joe Williams. Basie's theme songs were "One O'Clock Jump," developed in 1935 in the early days of his band, and "April In Paris".
Although the war was over, the United States still had considerable numbers of men in its Armed Forces and continued to supply them with the music from "back home" in the form of specially recorded programmes under the auspicies of the Armed Forces Radio Service. These 16-inch records playing at 33 and 1/3 rpm offered programmes of 15 and 30 minutes duration usually from live performances. The music on this CD is taken from three such programmes recorded at the Aquarium Restaurant over a period of just three weeks. The tunes that are played include material that had been in the band’s repertoire since the early days augmented by some new compositions. Although he was no longer a member of the band, Buck Clayton’s arrangements still figure strongly and the arrangements of Jimmy Mundy that had been in the band book for some time were also featured. The programmes show variety in pace and style and are laced with vocals from Jimmy Rushing and Ann Moore. The band itself, showed signs of influence from the emerging bop style but it never lost its ability to swing whatever the tempo. It could generate passion on the upbeat numbers without ever losing the essential underlying swing for which it had initially been recognised.