The collection of jazz icon, William J. “Count” Basie Jr., is now in the possession of Rutgers University in Newark.
The Institute of Jazz Studies (IJS), which is located on the Rutgers campus in Newark, announced this past week that it will serve as the site for the collection of Count Basie.
Count Basie, a nine-time Grammy winner and first African American to win the award in 1958, is globally recognized for his work in jazz. The pianist, organist, bandleader and composer is still a recognized figure in American culture and music still, today, 34 years following his death in 1984.
“It is only fitting that the Count Basie Collection will be housed at the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies,” said Wayne Winborne, executive director of IJS. “The IJS has been long recognized as the world’s foremost archives and research facility devoted to jazz. Moreover, unbeknownst to many people, Count Basie was a native New Jerseyan, born and raised approximately 40 miles south of IJS in Red Bank.”
“We will be starting with the paper based materials, like photos and things that go in boxes and are normal every day materials,” said Adriana Cuervo, the associate director of the IJS. “From there we will move on to artifacts and larger materials, like furniture. That’s how we plan to arrange and describe materials. We are still looking for a home, and physical space where we can slowly chip away and go through the process.”
The Count Basie Collection, which includes over 1,000 artifacts. Including Basie’s pianos, Hammond organ, photos, correspondence, concert programs, business records and press clippings, will eventually be placed on display but the IJS officials have not yet set a date when it will be open for the public.
The collection will also display Count Basie’s clothes, accessories, scrapbooks and some audiovisual material as well. The Collection will also consist of many belongings from Catherine Basie, who was William’s wife and life partner for over 40 years.
“Although the materials cover the entirety of Basie’s lifetime, the collection represents the latter years of Basie’s life and career particularly well,” said Winborne. “Including a large number of accolades, Grammy awards, honorary degrees and proclamations.”
Dan Morgenstern, the Executive Director Emeritus of the IJS, looked back on Count Basie and the times they shared together.
“The first time I got to really see Count Basie in action was when I was privileged to be at a recording session with the band,” said, Morgenstern. “He had a marvelous sense on how to utilize space and time. He was a wonderful person with absolutely no side, he was really a regular guy, and in spite of his great acclaim, he was just a really warm and friendly person.”
“We are extremely excited, grateful and humbled to be chosen to be stewards of the Basie legacy in the form of this collection,” said Winborne. “We are also happy to have a New Jersey native, come home, where his life and legacy can be celebrated locally and shared globally.”
The Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank is named after the legendary musician.