Wednesday, March 31, 2010


American swing jazz guitarist Frederick William "Freddie" Green, was born on March 31, 1911 in Charleston, North Carolina. He was especially noted for his sophisticated rhythm guitar in big band settings, particularly for the Count Basie orchestra, where he was part of the "All-American Rhythm Section" with Basie on piano, Jo Jones on drums, and Walter Page on bass.

He was exposed to music from an early age, and learned the banjo before picking up the guitar in his early teenage years. A friend of his father by the name of Sam Walker taught a young Freddie to read music, and keenly encouraged him to keep up his guitar playing. Walker gave Freddie what was perhaps his first gig, playing with a local community group with whom Walker was an organizer. Interestingly, another member of the group was a young William "Cat' Anderson, who went on to become an established trumpeter, working with notable figures such as Duke Ellington.

It was around this time that Green's parents died, and he moved to New York to live with his aunt and continue his education. The move opened up a new musical world to Freddie. While still in his teens, he began to play around the clubs of the city, earning money and a reputation. In one of these gigs, he was noticed by the legendary talent scout John H. Hammond, who realized the potential of Green and introduced him to Basie.

In 1937, Basie and his ensemble went to one of Green's gigs on the advice of an associate. Basie was an immediate fan, and approached Green with a job offer, which he accepted. Except for a brief interruption, Freddie Green would remain a pivotal fixture of the Count Basie Band for the next fifty years.

Green's guitar technique was to play only certain important notes of each chord. The unsounded notes were dampened by the fingers of the left hand. This technique gave a 'chunky' rhythm sound without creating unnecessary harmonic presence that might interfere with notes sounded by other members of the orchestra. Throughout his career, Green only rarely played single note solos. Green was a pioneer in the way the guitar is played in a big band setting. He held that "you should never hear the guitar by itself. It should be part of the drums so it sounds like the drummer is playing chords—like the snare is in A or the hi-hat in D minor".

One notable recorded exception to the general rule that Green rarely took solos is from the January 16, 1938. Carnegie Hall concert that featured the Benny Goodman big band. In the jam session on Fats Waller's "Honeysuckel Rose", Green was the rhythm guitarist for the ensemble, which also featured Basie and Page, and musicians from Duke Ellington's band. After Goodman's solo, he signalled to Green to take his own solo, which the musician Turk van Lake described in his commentary on the reissued 1938 Carnegie Hall concert as a "startling move". Green's solo occurs between those of Goodman and trumpeter Harry James.

Freddie Green died at the age of 75 in 1987.

Freddie plays with Basie's Band

Reference - AAJ

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