Book Excerpt: A Thousand Honey Creeks Later: My Life in Music from Basie to Motown

Author: Preston Love
Copyright: 1997
Publisher: Wesleyan University Press Hanover, New Hampshire
ISBN: 0-8195-6329-X

page 81
Freddie Green, Ted Donnelly, my son, and I went crabbing once a week. [In 1947, the Basie band was booked at the Club Paradise in Atlantic City for the entire summer]. We had bought ropes and crabbing baskets, and we would walk several miles to an inlet where we stood on a little bridge and caught hundreds of ocean crabs. Freddie was from Charleston, South Carolina, so he was right at home on the seacoast with crabbing basket in hand. He was also a master swimmer. Emmett Berry, singer Bob Bailey, and I once made the mistake of trying to swim with him in the ocean. The three of us had a frightening time when we found ourselves far out beyond our safe limits!

pages 182 - 184
Early in 1983, Buddy Tate began to correspond with me about a proposed tour of Europe for a group of the original and early members of the Basie orchestra. [The rhythm section was] Nat Pierce on piano, with Frank Capp on drums, Freddie Green on guitar, and Ed Jones on bass. Freddie Green took three weeks off from the then-current Basie orchestra to be with us. He is essential and indispensable to any band aiming to play the "real" Count Basie style. Freddie Green's guitar has always been the quintessential embodiment and sound of what we refer to as the Count Basie style. Even in the cases where Basie had drummers and bass players who didn't fit his style all that well, Freddie Green still gave them some semblance of the traditional Count Basie rhythm section sound. Of course, the rhythm section of Page, Jones, Green, and Basie was without equal in the annals of swing or jazz. That rhythm section was largely responsible for all the successes that Count Basie had. Some later bass players and drummers with Basie were reluctant to admit this, but I think it is axiomatic.

page 185
Freddie Green had come to Omaha quite often since my return there in 1971, so it was probably had only been a few months or weeks since I had last seen him, but being with Freddie again was a pleasure because we had always had a fine rapport.

page 188-190
The rhythm section [for the 1983 European tour] was quite acceptable in spite of the fact that I couldn't appreciate an amplifier on the bass violin of a Count Basie rhythm section. The reeds, however, were an immediate disaster. Freddie Green just sat looking at the section with a sorrowful expression on his face. Occasionally, he just shook his head in disbelief. After Paris, we flew to Madrid, and upon our arrival at our hotel there, Freddie Green said, "Love, take the lead [alto] book. Take the lead book, and get those guys together for a rehearsal!" I said, "Aw, Freddie, I couldn't do that and embarrass Earle [Warren] like that." Freddie knew of my great worship of Earle, as did all of the older member's of Basie's band, and he understood how it would hurt me to do this. So Freddie said, "Listen, Preston, nobody in the audience will know who is playing lead so long as you can get that section together and sounding like a real reed section." Shortly afterward, the saxes gathered in my room, and we carefully rehearsed each piece of music with myself on lead [alto] and Earle on second alto. Freddie came to listen to the rehearsal and constantly nodded his approval as we were able to clean up the parts.

pages 207 - 209
Another blow came in 1987 when Freddie Green died of a heart attack on March 1. On the occasion of Green's death I wrote a column for the "Omaha World Herald" stating that the event eliminated any reason for the continued operation of an orchestra bearing the name Count Basie. I noted that the members of the then current Basie band might continue to be a fine band, but Green had been the quintessential exponent of the Basie style for all of the fifty years that he played with the band. This was especially true of the late Basie bands, for with the passing of each era, these bands lost more and more of the distinctive Basie style and sound. This is not to say that these bands were not good; they were sometimes excellent, but they didn't retain that singularly exclusive "Basie thing". Green joined Count Basie in March 1937 and played with the Basie band continuously until his death, except for a few months in 1950 when Basie operated a small combo. Green was not a stranger to adversity: each of his wives dies at a relatively young age, and his youngest son died of a heart attack while only in his early forties. Green was often called Basie's left hand, which to some degree was true. I have often said that any band with Freddie Green on guitar would take on the flavor of the Count Basie style, while a band without him could never hope to get it. Even the Basie reunion band we took to Europe in 1983 immediately sounded like the "real" Count Basie the instant Green strummed his first notes on the guitar, despite the fact that most of the band members had grown quite old and some were badly out of practice. Freddie was the last living member of the great Count Basie rhythm section that consisted of Basie on piano, Green on guitar, Jo Jones on drums, and Walter Page on bass. There aren't many jazz or swing critics who haven't referred to that rhythm section as the greatest in history. Green was the cohesive element and unifying force of that section. He was never a soloist, but his rhythm was the steadiest of any guitar player, and he actually produced a more powerful sound on his guitar than traditionally dominant instruments such as the drums or bass.

Green's sense of tempo was flawless, but the main thing that set him apart from other guitar players and that made it almost impossible for them to imitate him successfully was that Green changed the voicing of the chord with each beat, even if the chord remained the same for several bars. [Editor's note: Freddie did often play moving lines; see the "Transcriptions" section for examples. But to state that he "changed the voicing with each beat" is incorrect.] This always made him and the section seen to be "walking" or moving. His touch made the strings sound as if they were singing.

Green was a very quiet man, but he was not dull. He had a rather droll sense of humor. We had a good friendship that I treasured.

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