Basie’s bandstand demeanor appeared laid-back in the extreme—some called it laissez faire; others just plain lazy. Testimony of his bandmen and arrangers belie this. Perhaps Basie’s greatest skill was that of editor, first in the matter of personnel, then in the selection of repertoire. As John S. Wilson quoted Basie in The New York Times: "I wanted my 13-piece band to work together just like those nine pieces…to think and play the same way…. I said the minute the brass got out of hand and blared and screeched instead of making every note mean something, there’d be some changes made." Basie told his autobiography collaborator, Albert Murray, "I’m experienced at auditions. I can tell in a few bars whether or not somebody can voice my stuff."
Whether viewed as its pianist, leader, composer, arranger, paymaster, chief editor, inspiration, or soul—Count Basie will always be inextricably associated with the Basie Band. Despite crippling arthritis of the spine and a 1976 heart attack, Basie continued to call the tune and the tempo until his death from cancer in 1984. It will be the burden of all big bands, past, present, and future, to stand comparison with the Basie band. It has been the standard for half a century. One reason may well be that Count Basie, he of the impeccable taste, was not only its leader, but the bands greatest fan. He would not permit it to play less than its best. He loved it so.
Count Basie - Booty's Blues
Count Basie playing a duet with bassist Cleveland Eaton. Trombone solo is by Booty Wood. Carnegie Hall Concert, 1981