Book: Jim Hall - Exploring Jazz Guitar
Author: Jim Hall
Copyright: 1990
Publisher: Hal Leonard Publishing - Milwaukee
Pages: 63 - 64

Freddie Green

When I was in my 20s, I tried to pattern my life after Freddie Green. During my hours on the road behind the wheel of the Jimmy Guiffre Three Volkswagen van, I used to think "How can I make my driving like Freddie Green's playing?" Comfortable, no bumps, pleasant. His playing makes you smile. It also made you play, judging by the way Count Basie's band sounded all those years. I once heard the band without Freddie, who was sick. Boy, did they miss him! That great Basie band was like a ship without the rudder. It just wasn't the same.

Freddie once told me that his biggest joy was playing behind Lester Young, who returned the compliment by playing all of those classic solos with the Basie band. I sometimes have a fantasy that, if the tree of jazz were pruned down far enough, we'd be left just with Freddie Green strumming away and making you feel like playing and smiling. After all, Charlie Christian and Charlie Parker heard Lester Young, who heard Freddie Green, etc.

I'll always regret that I didn't watch Freddie more closely or ask him more specific questions about his playing. I did ask Freddie once if he had any fatherly advice for me and he said "Yes, always pack your bag the night before and leave your uniform on top." I've already described what I felt from his playing. What I heard was something very simple and spacious: chord voicings that allowed the guitar to speak and yet not bump into other rhythm section instruments. For instance, a simple chord progression (Bm7 - E7 - Am7 - D7 - G) at a medium tempo might sound like this:

Whether he was playing more notes, I can't say, but this was the effect and, with his magnificent time feeling, it was perfect. It allowed the bass plenty of room to move. And Basie's piano playing never got in the way of anything. That's a subject for another whole book!

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