Mar 20, 2011 Swing History
My friend and partner, Charlie Busterna has impeccable time…not a bad thing for a drummer. He likes to talk about a “pocket” that is created by the proper melding of rhythmic elements in a band. It’s like a great sauce, well simmered, in which the ingredients cooperate for the common good in hopes of approaching synergetic perfection.
Behold: The Pocket Meister
Frederick William Green was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1911. In the early 30’s, “Jazz Angel” John Hammond noticed him at the Black Cat Club in Greenwich Village and alerted Count Basie. This provoked an association that would last for almost 50 years. Green was the heartbeat of Basie’s band. It wouldn’t have been the same without him. His heavy gauge strings, placed further off the neck than usual along with ingenius voicings…gave a corpulent but incredibly buoyant personality to the quarter notes over which he reigned supreme. This techno-point attempts to explain the sound. The precision and art of the legendary guitarist were the mysterious products of his heart, mind and talent. Treat yourself to a tour of the Basie Discography and savor the genius of these giants of swing and check out “Rhythm Man” recorded by Mr. Green, under his own name…in which he actually plays a solo.
“I don’t try to play those big ‘concert’ chords. I play just a couple of notes, sometimes just one, but it sets the sound of the chord. When you try to play those big chords, it can make the whole band drag.” Freddie Green
“In a sixteen piece ensemble like the Basie band, there are more players than notes in the chord, so between the horns and the bass player, each chord is clearly defined. Freddie’s task was to provide a solid quarter note “heart beat” at every tempo, plus avoid conflict with the bass player’s lines and Basie’s comping. By deadening all the strings except the fourth but striking all six, Freddie created a unique style and sound that: 1) precisely defined the beat, 2) was recognizable as a guitar timbre, 3) cut through the thick texture of a big band even though unamplified, 4) allowed the creation of subtle moving inner voice lines similar to a cello or viola part, 5) was comfortable to play at very fast tempos.”