Jazz artist and Allegro contributor Mort Kuff recently penned these illustrations of the Count Basie band (above) and Louis Armstrong. Kuff told Allegro: “When it comes to celebrating Black History Month in terms of jazz – America’s classical music – I believe it is safe to say that the incomparable LOUIS ARMSTRONG and the fabulous COUNT BASIE (and his rhythm section) would be found very near the top of any list. The story of Louis Armstrong as a musical phenomenon is well known. It would be hard to argue that any other single musician has had such a powerful influence on the world of popular music. His upbeat personality, his nonpareil virtuosity and his dazzling style plus his own and often hilarious vocal improvisations are all deserving of a high note in anybody’s book. The fabulous Count Basie rhythm section consisted of ‘The Chief’ at the piano with his impeccable taste and scrupulously perfect tempos; Walter Page and his rich, dependably firm bass; Jo Jones on the drums & cymbals, who pioneered the way for all big band drummers to follow; and Freddie Green’s consistent four-to-the-bar rhythm guitar work that was a vital element in establishing the band’s pulse for nearly 50 years. Playing together, this quartet of fabulously talented musicians provided the solid foundation for the Basie Band that, in turn, set the gold standard for the swingingest orchestras of the Golden Era of the big bands.There has been nothing like it, before or since.”
– MORT KUFF, artist and self-described big band groupie. Art © Mort Kuff.