Originally called the Carlton Theater, the Count Basie Theatre will get to keep the Count’s name for at least another century. Below, a bust of the late jazz great outside the Red Bank train station. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
[Correction: the original version of this post misreported the year of Count Basie’s birth, which was 1904.]
By JOHN T. WARD
In conjunction with the anniversary of the birth, in Red Bank, of jazz great William ‘Count’ Basie, the town’s premiere entertainment venue has inked a deal with the trust that controls his estate to enable it to call itself the Count Basie Theatre for 50 more years, with five 10-year extensions, the two entities announced Monday.
“A hundred years: to me, that’s perpetuity,” theater CEO Adam Philipson told redbankgreen Monday.
Basie was born here on August 21, 1904, and died April 26, 1984, having played the venue just once, on May 11, 1979. Just months before his death, he consented to the use of his name on the marquee, Philipson said.
That agreement might have continued without being formalized, but with the venue planning a $20 million expansion, legal considerations arose, he said.
“New trustees wanted to be sure everything was buttoned up,” he said.
Among the concerns, Philipson said, was the protection of ticket buyers. Web-based ticket vendors will sometimes claim to the the “official” vendor of tickets for the venue, when only the theater itself has that distinction, he said. The agreement with the Basie trust makes that distinction legally ironclad, he said.
“You don’t want to take anything for granted,” he said.
The theater does not pay the trust for use of Basie’s name, he said.
“This was all in good spirit and a feeling of mutual benefit,” he said, noting that the theater helps keep the legacy of the late pianist and composer alive.
“Adam and I just wanted to be sure that this was an arrangement that was going to last a long time,” said Joy Rosenthal, a New York-based attorney who serves as trustee to the Basie trust. The theatre, she said, “is really a fantastic place, and we wanted to make sure their use of the name would be protected.”