Book Excerpt: Goodbyes and Other Messages: A Journal of
Jazz 1981 - 1990
Book: Goodbyes and Other Messages:
A Journal of Jazz 1981 - 1990
Author: Whitney Balliett
Publisher: Oxford University Press - New York
Although Basie's musical changes were not always imitable, they were
freely offered. One was his rhythm section, which included him on piano,
Freddie Green on guitar, Walter Page on bass, and Jo Jones on drums.
Jazz rhythm sections had long been insistent, metallic, and inflexible;
Basie's was double-jointed and oblique. It swung with one hand behind
its back. Page played an easy four-four beat (and the right notes), Green
clocked the chords and made butterfly sounds in the background, Jones
connected Page and Green with his swimming high-hat, and Basie added
metaphor, impetus, humor, brevity, and direction. No one has explained
how the Basie rhythm section evolved, and probably no one will. Even
Jo Jones, a man of many words, was stumped when he talked about it with
critic Stanley Dance: "It became a wedding. Instead of one and three
[the beats sounded], and two and four, it became one, two, three, four,
and then it was like a lilt."
Once, when Basie was asked where his celebrated pianistic style came
from, he said, in his deep, easy voice, "Honest truth, I don't know.
If my playing is different, I didn't try for it or anything like that.
I stumbled on it. I do know that in the earlier years I always loved
Fats Waller's playing, and that Fats and the other guys had such fast
right hands there was no use for me to try and compete with them. Another
thing that helped was was my rhythm section with Jo Jones and Walter
Page and Freddie Green. They gave me so much freedom. I could run in
between what Page and Freddie were doing. I don't think a lot of execution
on my part meant anything with them there. It would have just cluttered