Q&A with Al Green, son of famous jazz guitarist Freddie Green
Aug 23 2015 12:01 am Aug 23 10:18 am
Alfred Green has been on a mission to understand his famous father, jazz guitarist Freddie Green.
If you go
WHAT: Book chat, signing and reception with Alfred Green. Al Green will tell stories about his father’s early years in Charleston, the legendary career with Count Basie and his innovative guitar technique.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Avery Research Center, 125 Bull St.
MORE INFO: www.charlestonjazz.net; artsmgmt.cofc.edu; www.freddiegreenrhythm.com.
WHAT: Tyler Ross’ College of Charleston Jazz Repertory Class, with Michael Pettersen, guitarist and Freddie Green historian. Ross opens his jazz repertory class to the public. Pettersen discusses Green’s guitar technique.
WHEN: 3:30-5 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Recital Hall, 54 St. Philip St.
MORE INFO: www.charlestonjazz.net; artsmgmt.cofc.edu; www.freddiegreen.org
Presentation, concert, book signing
WHAT: Book presentation with Al Green and concert by Quentin Baxter’s Franklin Street Jazz Ensemble. Al Green will give a presentation about Freddie Green, followed by a Q&A with Adam Parker of The Post and Courier. A book signing will follow.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Recital Hall, 54 St. Philip St.
MORE INFO: www.charlestonjazz.net; artsmgmt.cofc.edu
The elder Green was a master of rhythm and swing, providing the Count Basie Band with its foundation.
Freddie Green, a product of the Jenkins Orphanage Band in Charleston, developed a “sound” and style that jazz insiders would study and strive to emulate.
Now Freddie Green’s son has written a book called “Rhythm Is My Beat,” published by Rowman & Littlefield, which seeks to explain the great guitarist’s achievement and allure.
The Post and Courier asked Al Green a few questions about his dad.
Q: Freddie Green was the quiet hero of early jazz, not terribly visible to audiences but hugely respected by fellow musicians. Why was he so important?
A: Musicians loved playing with Freddie Green because he always pushed the ensemble to swing all out and elevated the soloist as they rode his 4/4 “melodic rhythm wave” to improvisational freedom.
Q: What role did your father play in your own life? How influential was he and his music?
A: As the son of Freddie Green, I was not so much influenced by the music but more by Dad’s approach to the music, his work ethic. Both he and I were driven, and saw obstacles as opportunity. I returned to school and got my master’s (degree) at age 51.
Dad remained steadfast (even) as other rhythm guitarists readily abandoned playing rhythm and scrambled to play single-string solos, like Charlie Christian or Eddie Durham.
Freddie Green did not follow the pack, and ultimately turned the “chink, chink, chink” of the supportive acoustic rhythm guitar into an art form.
Q: Charleston and its music scene shaped Freddie Green and his sensibilities. Describe Charleston’s unique influence on Green’s music and on jazz generally.
A: Dad’s early life in Charleston was rooted in music: from his mother singing in the Morris Brown AME choir to his relationship with music students (in the) Jenkins Orphanage Band, and with the solid tutelage of Professor William Blake. It was in this environment where a sense of purpose, pride and loyalty to fellow musicians internalized.
The many musicians coming out of Charleston and the Lowcountry were often better prepared musically than others, giving them an advantage in the market.
Q: Green played with Basie, then encountered many other jazz greats, such as Billie Holiday, Lester Young, Benny Goodman and Walter Page. All were involved in big bands. What happened to Green after the big band era, when bebop took over?
A: There was a stronger resolve in Freddie Green to not let any individual or style of jazz erode the sound that made Basie Basie. He and The Count were not opposed to the new modern approach to jazz but held a tight rein on young arrangers to ensure that the charts they presented swung and, if they didn’t, Basie would say with a nod from his guitarist, “Pass the peanuts,” meaning, we are not playing it.
Q: Tell me about the book, “Rhythm Is My Beat.” What was your approach? How will it be used?
A: I decided to write “Rhythm is My Beat” because I realized that 75 percent of Dad’s life was spent with his extended family, Basie’s band. However, was my perception of the dad and man I knew congruent with how the Basie family and the world beyond perceived him? It was important to me to know my dad 100 percent.
Many fans knew the musician Freddie Green but longed to know the mysterious, imperturbable Mr. Rhythm — the man.
Because of the ongoing dialogue 28 years after his death around the mystique of how Freddie Green got that sound, much of the theory from contributing guitarists and educators are compiled in extensive appendixes, attracting students, professional guitarists, jazz aficionados, educators and both Basie and Freddie Green followers.