Book Excerpt: Count Basie

Book: Count Basie
Author: Alun Morgan
Copyright: 1984
Publisher: Hippocrene Books - New York
ISBN: 0-87052-012-1

Pages 28 - Freddie on Basie
On Jo Jones's right sat Freddie Green, probably the greatest rhythm guitarist in the history of jazz. He was called, with perfect truth, Basie's left hand. As he explained, "Basie's piano certainly contributes to making the rhythm smooth. He contributes the missing things. I feel very comfortable working with him because he always seems to know the right thing to play for rhythm. Count is also just about the best piano player I know for pushing a band and for comping soloists. I mean the way he makes different preparations for each soloist and the way, at the end of his solos, he prepares an entrance for the next man. He leaves the way open."

Page 54 - Freddie and Sonny Payne
Drummer Sonny Payne was inclined to send up rockets when the music called for indirect lighting. He also had a tendency to rush the beat and, for a time, Freddie Green kept a long stick with which he poked Sonny when the time started to go awry.

Page 64 - Basie on Recording an Album without Freddie
Called "For The First Time" the record was just that, for Basie had never previously recorded in a guitarless trio setting. "That was Norm's (Norman Granz) idea" Basie told John McDonough in 1975. "You know it wasn't mine. But it was real fun. In fact we've just finished another trio session with my bass player, Norm Keenan, and Louis Bellson, but this time we added Zoot Sims. It's mostly blues and some other things. Norman Granz is a blues man you know. I guess he didn't want a guitar. For myself, Freddie Green definitely fills out a rhythm section. But there are times we want to play around a little and get loose. Fred keeps you in there, you know - pretty strict".

Page 67 - Setting Tempos
Bill Coss described the way Count eases the band into a performance: "You'll often see and hear Freddie and the Count playing introductions which may be several choruses long, changing tempos, checking with each other, finding the groove which pleases them most, (Basie smiling with evident glee and Freddie nodding with sophisticated satisfaction when they reach that point), then the Count's right foot, which is most often wound around the chair until then, kicks out, there is a sound of the command and the band is unleashed in all its fury."

Basie himself was probably thinking of the time-restrictions of record making when he spoke of getting started: "I don't think that a band can really swing on just a kick-off, you know; I think you've got to set the tempo first. If you can do it the other way, that's something else. Anyway, we do it our way. I set it with Freddie, sometimes for a couple of choruses. That's it, see. We fool with it and we know we've got it, like now." The creation of a floating beat, a four-man rhythm section which thinks, breathes, and plays as one, is something which has eluded many, even the Basie band itself when Basie was absent."

Page 69 - Relationship between the Count and Freddie
"Except for Freddie Green nobody really knows Bill (Basie)", says a veteran member of the band. "He keeps in most of what he feels, and the face he presents to the public is usually the one we see too. Once in a great while he'll explode or do something else that isn't in keeping with the usual picture of him, but he quickly picks up his customary role. And from time to time, we'll see Freddie Green lecturing him off to one side - never the other way around. But I don't know what those conversations are about."

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