Born: March 31, 1911 | Died: March 1, 1987 Primary Instrument: Guitar, acoustic
Freddie Green was the guitarist in what is generally considered to be the best rhythm section in the history of big band jazz, and dubbed the All-American Rhythm Section, which featured Count Basie, bassist Walter Page, and drummer Jo Jones. Green continued with the band until 1987. From the start Green earned a reputation as a stylist without equal, fans and fellow players referred to him as Mr. Rhythm with the utmost respect.
Born in Charleston, South Carolina, on March 31, 1911, he began playing banjo at the age of 12. He got his first job locally with a band called the Nighthawks, then toured with the famous Jenkins Orphanage band, though Green himself was not a member of the school. By 1930, he was living in New York, by playing for dancers with stride men like Willie Gant, his unique abilities to judge tempo and create a supple rhythm were forged....
Wes Montgomery: It would be alright, but I don't know that many chords. I'd be loaded if I knew that many. I'd probably go join a (big) band and play rhythm, man, because he's (Freddie) not just playing chords, he's playing a LOT of chords.
Tenor saxophonist Paul Quinichette, who worked with Basie in the 1950's, said,
I think Basie would be lost without Freddie. If you put the tempo too fast, Freddie kept it down there, always controlled. He's got it right there, in his wrist. And Basie listens to Freddie Green, one reason why he's still successful to this day. He might not listen to me, but he's going to listen to Freddie, because he knows that's where it is. When Walter Page died, the only one he had left was Freddie, the only one he could rely on to keep tempo.
Clarinetist Artie Shaw writes about developing a unique musical style, like that of Freddie Green:
Anybody can work up a set of tricks. The toughest thing is always the least tricky, the least gimmicky, the least fancy, and don't let anybody kid you about that. And that goes for anything - not only music.