Jazz legend Count Basie honored in Red Bank for Black History Month event

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Jazz musician legend Count Basie was honored in Red Bank Thursday night as part of Black History Month celebrations.

Basie is from Red Bank and his orchestra celebrated its 85th anniversary. T. Thomas Howard Foundation Vice President Gilda Rogers says that Basie’s music is full of love.

“You can hear it in his music. Based in the blues, but it’s really swinging. It’s swinging,” she says.

Rogers organized the event to honor Count Basie as a love letter to his music and his memory.

“He made you feel very comfortable. Very relaxed and comfortable,” says Clarence Banks, who has been playing second trombone in Basie’s orchestra for the past 36 years.

Banks was selected for the orchestra by Basie himself.

"I think in his own way, he was a quiet spokesperson,” Banks says.

Born William James, Basie grew up in Red Bank and became the first African American male recipient of a Grammy away in 1958. He worked with artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett.

“To know that I walk the same streets in Red Bank that he walked, it means a lot. You know, he put Red Bank on the map,” says Rogers.

Basie is an inspiration for 16-year-old jazz artist Ben Figuly.

“He’s just a huge influence, so whenever I play in this genre, I think of him,” Figuly says.

Count Basie's orchestra is still on tour through the summer.

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