Freddie Green Obituary: Daily News of Los Angeles


Freddie Green, the guitarist who anchored the Count Basie Orchestra rhythm section for 50 years, died of a heart attack Sunday in Las Vegas shortly after a performance. He was 75 years old.

Green had just finished the Basie band's second show (with Tony Bennett) at Bally's Hotel that night when he was stricken. Frank Foster, the current leader of the Basie outfit, dedicated the rest of the band's stand at Bally's to Green.

Last Wednesday, Green played what turned out to be his last Los Angeles gig (and his last recording session) at A Studios, in a recording with singer Diane Schuur, which was also videotaped. As always, Green quietly strummed his acoustic guitar, propelling the Basie band in such tunes as "Jumpin' at the Woodside," which dates back to Green's first days with the band, and his own composition, "Corner Pocket (Until I Met You)."

Green's death snaps the last link the Basie band had to its fabled beginnings before World War II. Green never called attention to himself, rarely took solos, indeed, never electrified his guitar. But he was still the irreplaceable sparkplug of the loping, punching Basie rhythm.

Born March 31, 1911, in Charleston, S.C., Green was spotted by Basie in 1937 in New York City. Green immediately joined the band, and except for a brief period in 1950 when Basie was forced to disband his group in favor of leading a septet, Green never left.

In the late 1930s and 1940s, Green was an integral part of Basie's hard- swinging All-American Rhythm Section (with Basie, drummer Jo Jones and bassist Walter Page), a group that sometimes performed on its own. In the Basie bands from the early '50s onward, Green brought his stamp to the more formal, arranger-oriented style of the later Basie bands.

When Basie died in April 1984, Green stayed on as the unofficial spiritual leader of the band, though Eric Dixon, the late Thad Jones, and Foster were out in front leading.

Green's funeral will be Friday in St. Peter's Church in New York.

Meanwhile, there are currently discussions about turning a Basie Band performance March 19 at the Wilshire Theatre into a memorial for the guitarist. Prior to his death, Green's friends were hoping to make the concert into a surprise birthday party for him.

Source: Daily News of Los Angeles
Date: March 5, 1987
Copyright: 1987

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