Basie, William "Count" To Battleship New Jersey

Basie, William "Count" (b. Aug. 21,1904; d. Apr. 26,1984). Jazz musician, composer, and bandleader. Count Basie was one of the greatest bandleaders of the swing era, along with Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. He developed a new approach to jazz piano. Basie and company revolutionized swing rhythm and the concept of the jazz rhythm section, laid the groundwork for the bebop and cool schools of jazz, and established an enduring big band legacy.

Count Basie playing with his orchestra.

Count Basie playing with his orchestra.

William Basie was born in Red Bank to Harvey Lee Basie and Lilly Ann Childs Basie, both originally from Chase City, Virginia. Harvey was a groundskeeper on several local estates and played the horn; Lilly did laundry and ironing for local gentry and played the piano well enough to accompany church services. As a youth Bill Basie studied piano, first with his mother, and later with Miss Vander-vere, a German woman. He had a good ear, could easily pick out tunes, and set about to master ragtime. He did odd jobs at the Palace Theater in Red Bank, and once, when the regular piano accompanist for the silent films was sick, young Basie substituted for him and did well enough at the matinee to be invited back for the evening program. He later made his debut as a pianist/bandleader at the same theater as part of a vaudeville show. Basie’s first quartet included New Jerseyans Bill Robinson on violin, Sonny Greer on drums, and a Mr. Duffin on C-melody saxophone. In the summer of 1923, Basie and Elmer Williams went to Asbury Park, where they intended to work as musicians in the resort town, but they found only sporadic employment. The next summer, they joined Harry Richardson’s Sunny Kings of Syncopation, house bandat the Hong Kong Inn in Asbury Park, but Basie lost his job in midsummer to a more experienced pianist. In the fall of 1924, the two moved to Harlem where they joined a vaudeville act, Katie Krippen and Her Kiddies, led by Lou Henry, and toured for more than a year.

From 1924 to 1927, Basie assimilated the Harlem stride piano styles of James P. Johnson (b. New Brunswick), Willie "the Lion” Smith, Luckey Roberts, and Beetle Henderson, but it was Thomas "Fats” Waller who befriended and mentored him. He toured with another vaudeville show and was stranded in Kansas City (1927). There he accompanied silent movies, then played with Walter Page’s Blue Devils (1928), and eventually joined Benny Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra (1929), the best of the "territorial bands.”

After Moten died in 1935, Basie organized the nine-piece "Barons of Rhythm” with Lester Young and Jo Jones. A lengthy engagement followed at the Reno Club. A1936 radio broadcast attracted the attention of John Hammond, leading to a recording contract with Decca. The band expanded to fifteen pieces, traveled to New York City via Chicago, and established itself as the Count Basie Orchestra. By 1937 it was one of the preeminent big bands. Recordings such as "Doggin’ Around” and "Jumpin’ at the Woodside” (1938) and "Taxi War Dance” and"Lester Leaps In” (1939) are considered jazz masterpieces.

Southwestern jazz was hot, hard driving, and danceable, built around the rhythm section, and Basie’s was the best in jazz, featuring Basie on piano, Walter Page on bass, Freddie Green on guitar, and Jo Jones on drums. The swing was driving yet relaxed and light. The original Basie Band used "head arrangements” and "riffs” and featured great soloists, including the incomparable Lester Young. Blues was its mainstay, and the great blues singers Jimmy Rushing and Joe Williams sang and recorded with Basie, as did Billie Holiday.

Basie simplified and abstracted swing. The band’s style was a KC streamlining of Fletcher Henderson’s approach. Basie’s rhythm section clarified the roles of the instruments. The piano no longer doubled the bass; its crisp, sparse punctuation left space for Page’s bass, which "walked” in four even beats per measure, legato, leading the rhythm section. Green’s guitar chorded in swinging quarter notes that glided horizontally, instead of pounding vertically: "They put wheels on all four beats of the bar.” The focus of Jones’s drumming was the light hi-hat—a supple coordination of foot and stick, not the heavy bass drum on every beat. Recordings made between 1937 and 1941 are considered the most genuine.

After leading a combo in 1951-1952, Basie returned as a big band leader in 1952 with great success. Tours of Europe, beginning in 1954, numerous awards, and top standings in popularity polls followed. The post-1952 band depended less on soloists and more on writers able to capture the Basie legacy in swinging charts. Basie led the band when his health permitted until the early 1980s, although after his 1976 heart attack, he was not always able to perform. He died of cancer at age seventy-nine. Thad Jones and Frank Foster led the band following his death.

Basilone, John (b. Nov. 4, 1916; d. Feb. 19, 1945). Soldier and Medal of Honor recipient. John Basilone was born in Buffalo, New York, but grew up in Raritan, New Jersey. He was one of ten children born to Salvatore and Dora Basilone. His father, a tailor, was born near Naples, Italy, and his mother was born in Raritan. In 1934 John Basilone enlisted in the U.S. Marines and served in the Philippines until he was honorably discharged in 1937. After spending some time in Raritan, he reen-listed in July 1940. Because of his time in the Philippines, his friends in the service called him "Manila John.”

On the night of October 24-25, 1942, Basilone was a gunnery sergeant serving on Guadalcanal in the First Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment, First Marine Division. He was in charge of two heavy machine-gun sections that protected a small pass leading to Henderson Airfield. During a Japanese attack that knocked out one machine gun section, Basilone picked up a ninety-pound machine gun and tripod and ran two hundred yards to replace the lost gun. He then repaired and manned another machine gun, under tremendous fire, until reinforcements arrived. Later that night, his men were cut off from their supply lines and ran low on ammunition. Basilone fought his way through enemy lines to bring back enough ammunition to sustain his men until the attack was repelled. The next day thirty-eight dead Japanese soldiers were found around his gun emplacement.

Sgt. John Basilone, USMC, on the cover of Collier's magazine, June 24,1944.

Sgt. John Basilone, USMC, on the cover of Collier’s magazine, June 24,1944.

For his actions at Guadalcanal, Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony held in Balcombe, Australia, on May 21, 1943. He was sent to the United States to head a bond drive, which raised $1.4 million. In 1943 thirty thousand people attended a rally held in his honor at the Doris Duke estate near Raritan. Despite the praise and publicity he received for his heroism, he refused promotion to officer rank and stateside postings, insisting, "I’m a plain soldier. I want to stay one.” After the bond tour, he said he was beginning to feel like a "museum piece” and wanted to return to the fighting in the Pacific. Before his return to combat late in 1944, he married Marine Sgt. Lena Riggi.

On February 19,1945, Basilone landed with the marine forces on the first day of the Battle of Iwo Jima. He single-handedly destroyed a Japanese blockhouse. A few minutes later, a mortar shell exploded and killed him and four other marines. Basilone was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart. He was the only enlisted marine to receive the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross, and the Purple Heart in World War II. His body was reburied in Arlington National Cemetery.

The USS Basilone, a U.S. Navy destroyer launched in 1949, was named after him. His hometown of Raritan remembers him with a bronze statue, which shows him carrying his machine gun on Guadalcanal, and annually holds a John Basilone Day Parade.

Basketball. From pickup games in city playgrounds and suburban driveways to formal play in elementary-school-through-college gymnasiums to big bucks in the big time, basketball is as much a part of New Jersey as the Shore. Although the first professional basketball game was played in Trenton in 1898, the state had a shaky beginning at the pro level. The New Jersey Nets, who started out as the New Jersey Americans in the now-defunct American Basketball Association, lasted one year (1967-1968) in the state before heading to New York, where they were renamed the Nets. They returned to New Jersey in 1977-1978, however, and have been in the state ever since. They made their first appearance in the National Basketball Association championships in 2002, advancing to the finals before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Prominent individuals have made their mark on New Jersey basketball. The state’s best-known hoopster may be former United States Senator Bill Bradley, who played for Princeton University and then the New York Knicks. Bradley is now in the Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey. The state’s association with the pros does not end there. NBA Commissioner David Stern is a 1963 graduate of Rutgers University.

College basketball is governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which holds tournaments for men and women in March of every year. The Rutgers University men’s team advanced to the NCAA Final Four in the 1975-1976 season, and the women’s team advanced to the NCAA Final Four in March of 2000. Rutgers made history in 1976 when Theresa Grentz was named the first fulltime women’s basketball coach in the country. Seton Hall University in South Orange has been a perennial men’s powerhouse in the NCAA tournament, particularly while P. J. Carlesimo was its coach. Seton Hall has made seven trips to the tournament. In 1989 the team advanced to the championship game, where it lost to the University of Michigan in overtime. Carlesimo went on to become head coach of the Golden State Warriors and the Portland Trail Blazers. He is not Seton Hall’s winningest coach, though. John "Honey” Russell won 295 games in eighteen years (1936-1943 and 1949-1960). In 1953 he guided Seton Hall to the championship at the National Invitational Tournament.

At the high school level, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association sets the tone. Since 1919 Saint Anthony’s in Jersey City has left its mark, winning twenty-two titles. In 1997, with twenty-one state championships, Saint Anthony’s was second in the nation, trailing a Wyoming school that had won twenty-four. Saint Anthony’s enjoyed its best years under the tutelage of Bob Hurley, who is also in the Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey. His son, Bobby Hurley, played for Duke University, then went on to the pros (1994-1998), spending most of his career with the Sacramento Kings. The NJSIAA added the girls’ tournament in 1976, and the perennial favorite there has been Saint John Vianney, Holmdel, which has achieved eight championships.

Basking Ridge. A village of Bernards township in the northwest corner of Somerset County. The first settlers were Scots-Irish and arrived about 1717. The earliest use of the name Basking Ridge—originally written Baskinridge—was in 1733 in the records of the only Presbyterian church at the time. According to legend, the name originated with the early settlers who noticed "the wild animals of the adjacent lowlands were accustomed to bask in the warm sun of this beautiful ridge.” William Alexander, Lord Stirling, who served a general in the Continental Army, built a palatial home in Basking Ridge in 1762.

The Basking Ridge Classical School educated young men as part of the Brick Academy who then entered the College of New Jersey, as Princeton University was then known. Brick Academy graduates included U.S. senators Theodore Frelinghuysen and William L. Dayton, and Samuel L. Southard, who served as governor of New Jersey in 1831 and 1832. The school contributed many "more men to the bench, the bar, and the pulpit.” During the Civil War, uniforms and mess wagon axles were made in Basking Ridge. Development occurred with the arrival of the railroad in 1872; a century later, Routes 287 and 78 fostered a population increase.

Today Basking Ridge is primarily a residential community.

Basse, Jeremiah (b. date unknown; d. 1725). Colonial governor. Jeremiah Basse served as proprietary governor of East and West Jersey from April 1698 to November 1699. Although many are critical of his short administration, he was instrumental in solving a major problem that had plagued the colony since its inception—interference from New York with the right of the Jerseys to free ports. Trade was the key to wealth, and so after an impassioned plea to the East Jersey Assembly, Basse brought a test case with his ship the Hester. The New York royal governor, Lord Bellomont, seized the Hester and its cargo, whereupon Basse charged him with theft. Bellomont was prosecuted in a criminal court in London. The court found for Basse in 1700, and in April 1702, with the surrender of the proprietary charters, Queen Anne granted free ports to the colony.

Bass River. 77.35-square-mile township in Burlington County. First settled in the seventeenth century by English immigrants, Bass River is deep within the Pine Barrens, which cover the majority of its acreage. Its primary boundaries are the Great Bay on the east, along with the Mullica River on the south; the latter forms the border between Atlantic and Burlington counties. Woodland and Washington Township lie to the north and west of the town. Major waterways within the township include the Bass, Wading, and Os-wego rivers. The township was founded in 1864 from a division of Little Egg Harbor Township and an acquisition of land from neighboring Washington Township.

The township’s principal community is the bayside hamlet of New Gretna along Route 9 and the Garden State Parkway. New Gretna’s halcyon days date back to the 1860s, when it was a prime port for fishing, oystering, and clam harvesting. Today, New Gretna is primarily known for the construction of boats, especially the luxury craft built by the Viking Yacht Company. The New Gretna House, an inn dating back to 1861, is still standing and awaits restoration. Most of the township’s remaining area consists of the Bass River State Forest. Cranberry and blueberry growing are the other main industries in the township.

In 2000, the population of 1,510 was 99 percent white. The median household income in 2000 was $47,469. For complete census figures, see chart, 129.

Bats. Nine species of bats can be found in New Jersey, six of them as year-round residents. The most common are the big brown and little brown bats; others include the northern long-eared bat, small-footed my-otis, Eastern pipistrelle, and the endangered Indiana bat. The hoary, red, and silver-haired bats migrate south in winter.

Bats in New Jersey feed exclusively on insects and roost in the darkness of structures such as attics, barns, and bridges. During winter, colonies of bats hibernate by the thousands in caves and abandoned mines. The Hibernia mine in Rockaway is considered one of the most vital bat habitats in the eastern United States; as many as thirty thousand bats have been counted there.

Batsto. Batsto Village, located in Wharton State Forest, is the site of a former bog-iron and glassmaking industrial center. Founded in 1766, Batsto’s ironworks provided munitions and other iron products for George Washington’s Continental Army. William Richards and his descendants owned and operated Bats to from 1784 to 1876. During this time, Bats to was noted for its pig iron, cast-iron water pipe, fire backs, and window glass. In 1876 Joseph Wharton, a Philadelphia industrialist, purchased Bats to and invested heavily in the village’s agricultural and commercial aspects, cultivating cranberries, raising livestock, and rebuilding the sawmill. The state of New Jersey acquired Bats to along with the Wharton tract in 1954-1955. Today, Bats to reflects Wharton’s late nineteenth-century "gentleman’s farm.”

Battleship New Jersey. The uss New Jersey (BB-62) was one of four Iowa-class battleships constructed during World War II, the others being the Missouri, the Iowa, and the Wisconsin. With the exception of the Japanese Yamato and Musashi, these were the largest battleships ever built. Construction of the New Jersey commenced at the Philadelphia Navy Yard during September 1940, and the ship was commissioned in May 1943. The New Jersey measured 887 feet in length and had a beam of 108 feet. The 58,000-ton ship was capable of a maximum speed of 33 knots. Its main battery of nine 16-inch guns could fire 2,700-pound projectiles as far as twenty-three miles.

Exterior of the mansion at Batsto Village, located in Wharton State Forest.

Exterior of the mansion at Batsto Village, located in Wharton State Forest.

During World War II the New Jersey was active in the Pacific theater, where it served as the flagship of Admirals Raymond Spruance and William Halsey and participated in the amphibious assaults of the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The New Jersey was reactivated and used for shore bombardment during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The ship played a similar role off the coast of Lebanon during 1983-1984.

The USS New Jersey was decommissioned in 1991. Nine years later, the ship was moved to the Camden waterfront, and opened to the public as a floating museum.

Bay Head. 0.59-square-mile borough in Ocean County. This land at the head of the Barnegat Bay, between the Atlantic Ocean and Metedeconk River, was originally inhabited by Lenape Indians; in the seventeenth century farmers and fishermen from New England settled there. Bay Head was initially part of Shrewsbury Township, Monmouth County, but was annexed by Ocean County when it was established in 1850.

In 1879 a group of Princeton bankers founded the Bay Head Land Company to build homes along the dunes, and in 1886 Bay Head was incorporated. The borough flourished in the late nineteenth century as large hotels were constructed and boatbuilding developed as an industry. Bay Head gained an international reputation for the high-quality boats its boatyards produced. When Bay Head became a stop along the New York and Long Branch train line in 1918, summer visitors flocked to the borough for bathing and boating.

With its grand homes along the beach, the borough retains its Victorian flavor and reputation as a summer resort. In 2000, its total population of 1,238 was 98 percent white. The median household income in 2000 was $77,790. For complete census figures, see chart, 129.

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