Count Basie

Jazz great William “Count” Basie comes back to life in this rich documentary, which traces the history of the pianist, composer, and bandleader over several decades. Filmmaker Gary Keys juxtaposes a roundtable discussion among old (indeed octogenerian) cats from the Count Basie Orchestra with recorded performances, including a cameo appearance in Blazing Saddles. In archival clips, we see Basie skittering his hands over the keys. He holds a single finger up in the air, ready to unleash the band’s energy. A gallery of portraits and snapshots shows the ever-smiling face of a man as vivacious as the grooves he delivers—his good humor suffusing the music and the players going at it all around him, from Lester Young to Ella Fitzgerald.

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