The T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center in Red Bank, NJ is presenting a 116th birthday celebration for jazz legend Count Basie Friday night. It's a Facebook Live Event from 7-9pm.
The Center's Gilda Rogers says the celebration, featuring the music from the Vel Johnson Jazz Band, is also a fundraiser for the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center.
Rogers says Fortune, an African-American journalist, newspaper publisher, author and early civil rights activist paved the way for Basie and others to succeed.
"T. Thomas Fortune came to Red Bank in 1901, so he was very much about social justice. He was an outspoken journalist for the New York Age newspaper. He pretty much opened the door for Count Basie in the sense that when he moved to Red Bank it was about uplifting the black community with economic empowerment, political empowerment so that the next generation coming along would have more mobility to live out their dreams, such as Count Basie. Obviously Count Base was of a different generation than Fortune but when Count Basie comes along in 1904, grows up and matures in Red Bank, things have changed in Red Bank as a result of Fortune having lived here."
Rogers says her love for Count Basie goes back a long way too.
"I grew up listening to Count Basie because my grandmother was a big jazz aficienado. Count Basie has always been one of my favorite jazz musicians. He gave so many opportunities to so many musicians who came through his tutelage from Clark Terry to Lester Young, Billie Holiday was with him for awhile, he was just this person that really gave a start to a lot of jazz musicians who went on to be great within their own name. His legacy lives on now through the Count Basie Orchestra which is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year. That speaks to his greatness. I'm honored that we could spotlight him as he should be. He's one of the most famous native sons to come out of Red Bank."
Rogers, a highly acclaimed journalist and author, says the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center is having an exhibit called "A Love Letter To Count Basie: From the Great Migration to the Harlem Renaissance" that opens September 25 and will run through 2021.