Frank Wess on Basie's leadership

Now, a Jazz Moment...

MUSIC: "Blues in Hoss' Flat" CD: Chairman of the Board, Roulette Jazz 7243 5 8166422 (cut 1)

The Count Basie Orchestra was one of the tightest ensembles in the history of this music.   NEA Jazz Master Frank Wess, who played with Basie from 1953-64, always admired Basie's quietly observant approach.

Frank Wess: He was always aware of everything, you know.   And he kept his eye on everything.   He knew things happening in your personal life.   So he knew where everybody was and everybody knew where he was.  

One of the reasons the band was so good was that there was so little turnover in personnel.   People either fit or they didn't, but Basie let them decide that.  

Frank Wess: I know some people come in the band and I used to sit right next to Basie, you know.   So he'd look at me, he says, "I don't like him," you know.   Well, he didn't mean that he didn't like him personally or that he didn't like his playing.   It was that he could see that he wouldn't be able to control this person.   But he didn't fire anybody.   You know, he'd let you fire yourself.   (:27)

MUSIC: up and fades under

This Jazz Moment with saxophonist Frank Wess was created by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Frank Wess on Basie's leadership