Freddie Green Obituary: Chicago Tribune
GUITARIST FREDDIE GREEN, 75
Rhythm guitarist Freddie Green--the heart and soul of the Count Basie Band for almost 50 years--died Sunday in Las Vegas of an apparent heart attack.
Stricken after the Basie Band's second performance at Bally's Grand Hotel, Mr. Green was taken to Desert Springs Hospital where he died, band leader Frank Foster said. Mr. Green was 75 years old and is survived by a son, Alfred.
"He was the foremost rhythm guitarist in the world and in the field of jazz," said Foster. "The band is tore up about this, and we know it will be hard to replace him."
Born March 31, 1911, in Charleston, S.C., Mr. Green began playing guitar at age 12 and became a member of the Basie Band in March, 1937.
With Basie, bassist Walter Page and drummer Jo Jones, Mr. Green formed Basie's famous "All American" rhythm section, which brought to jazz a new and more subtle style of swing--a linear, gliding approach to rhythm that was described as "four-four time on roller skates."
Mr. Green was brought to Basie's attention by impresario John Hammond while the guitarist was working at a Manhattan nightspot called the Black Cat.
"He had unusually long fingers," recalled Hammond, "a steady stroke, and unobtrusively he held the whole rhythm section together. I thought he was the greatest I'd ever heard, the ultimate ensemble player."
"He joined us when we were working at the Roseland Ballroom," Basie once said. "It seemed strange to audition a guitarist, but he was on the bus the next day, and he's been with us ever since. Freddie Green is Mr. Hold- Together."
The Basie style was unthinkable without Mr. Green's effortlessly flowing beat, which was more felt than heard because his guitar was not amplified. Within the band he also functioned as a quiet yet vital keeper of the flame--a role that grew in importance after Basie's death in 1984, because Mr. Green was then the sole living link to the original Basie tradition.
Asked by an interviewer in 1985 if he really wanted to be heard, given his self-effacing approach to the guitar and the fact he rarely played solos, Mr. Green replied: "Oh, yes I do, especially by the musicians on the stage."
Source: Chicago Tribune