Book Excerpt: John Hammond On Record: An Autobiography

Author: John Hammond with Irving Townsend
Copyright: 1977
Publisher: Ridge Press/Summit Books - New York
ISBN: 0-671-40003-7

Excerpts from pages 175 - 177
My own favorite hangout was a small club called the Black Cat, a mob-owned joint on West Broadway, between Third and Bleeker Street. The band at the Black Cat included two cousins, the drummer Kenny Clarke and the bass player Frank Clarke, but it was the guitarist who interested me most. His name was Freddie Green and I thought he was the greatest I had ever heard. He had unusually long fingers, a steady stroke, and unobtrusively he held the whole rhythm section together. He was the antithesis of the sort of guitar Benny Goodman liked, the stiff, chugging rhythm guitar exemplified by George Van Eps and Allan Reuss. Freddie was closer to the imcomparable Eddie Lang than any guitar player I'd ever heard. He was perhaps not the soloist that Lang was, but he had a beat. He was the ultimate ensemble player I had always looked for.

About a week after the Basie opening at Roseland, I arranged to take Bill Basie, Lester Young, Walter Page, Jo Jones, and Buck Clayton down to the Black Cat. And because Benny Goodman also closed at one o'clock I persuaded him to join us. I wanted Bill's rhythm section to hear Freddie and - always thinking, always thinking - I wanted Benny to hear Lester sitting in and blowing freely in the intimate sort of musical surroundings a small jazz group always offers.

It was quite a night. Benny had brought his clarinet, so he sat in. Basie took over at the piano and Jo on drums, but Frank Clarke remained on bass and, of course, Freddie Green continued on the guitar. The result of our visit was that Basie hired Freddie Green to replace Claude Williams. Dropping Claude nearly broke Basie's heart, but Green was too great to pass up.

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