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Count Basie Has A New Home in Newark

Reg Burkett
Getty Images

Nearly 1,000 artifacts connected to the life of Count Basie life will eventually be available to view at the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers Newark.

During an announcement of the collection in Newark on Wednesday, IJS executive director Wayne Winborne listed some of its contents: “Photographs, videos, correspondence, concert programs, business records, clippings, as well as additional personal memorabilia such as clothes, accessories, scrap books, commercially issued recordings, coin and stamp collections, housewares, guns, stereo equipment, cameras and awards.”

Credit Ang Santos / WBGO
IJS Executive Director Wayne Winborne says several boxes of materials are dedicated to Catherine Basie.

Some boxes include materials dedicated to the Count’s wife, Catherine Basie. “She was very involved in the community with young people in her neighborhood and in the civil rights movement,” Winborne said.  “She will no doubt be a subject of historical examination.”

Joy Rosenthal, speaking on behalf of the Basie estate, says the collection tells a uniquely American story. 

“The story of one of the greatest, most well respected and loved band leaders,” Rosenthal said. “[The story] of his place in American music, of a couple who was separated by years on the road, of a life with a daughter who was born in the 40’s who had cerebral palsy and never spent one day in an institution, of black aristocracy, of their place in the civil rights movement and in the consciousness of others. These stories lie in the collection and need to be told.”

Adriana Cuervo with the Rutgers-Newark Institute of Jazz Studies will be one of many on a team sorting out Count Basie’s collection. “We will be starting with the paper-based materials and the photographs,” Cuervo said.  “Things that go in boxes that are the everyday types of materials that we handle at the archives.  From there we will move on to artifacts like furniture.”

Credit Ang Santos / WBGO
A captain's cap owned by Count Basie.

Institute of Jazz Studies Executive Emeritus director Dan Morgenstern says Count Basie would be proud to see his legacy displayed in his home state New Jersey.

“He was just a really warm and friendly person.  His music has that wonderful, happy quality. It was such a revelation when he came out of Kansas City with his band.  Nobody had ever heard anything like that before,” Morgenstern said. “It changed the music and it was a permanent change because you would have never had bebop without what Count Basie did.”

There is no specific date when the full collection will be ready for viewing.  The Institute of Jazz Studies are hoping to find a one stop home for the Count’s entire collection.