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Freddie Green Freddie Green

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.

It was in late 1936 that John Hammond, then putting together Basie's first tour out of Kansas City, heard Green at the Black Cat and brought him to Roseland to audition for the Count. Although Basie liked his current guitarist, Claude Williams, he let him go in favor of Green, who joined the band after the Roseland engagement. Green cut his first sides with Count Basie and his Orchestra, featuring Walter Page, and Jo Jones, for Decca on March 26, 1937, playing rhythm on “Honeysuckle Rose”, “Pennies From Heaven”, “Swinging At The Daisy Chain”, and “Roseland Shuffle”.

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Ralph Gleason: “Would it suit your temperament to sit there like Freddie Green and not take solos?”

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

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