Guitar in Las Vegas

Can an unamplified rhythm guitar make it in a big band? Freddie Green of the Count Basie Orchestra has been making it for 31 years.

"I think if you amplify the guitar in this size band, you create a 'balancing' problem. Unamplified guitar blends better with the bass and piano; you get a more uniform sound. Remember, we are talking about rhythm guitar, not lead."

Green has been playing an F-hole Gretsch El Dorado for the last ten years. He feels the F-hole is better for big band playing and suggests that the round hole would be more suitable for solo or lead work. "I enjoy my work. I like to listen to the brass behind me. Some of the numbers can be very challenging for rhythm guitar. Blues, for example. I get to move around a lot."

Freddie can read music, but most of the numbers are committed to memory. He likes to improvise, to play alternates to the various chords. He's a good guitarist holding down an unusual position in music - that of a big band rhythm player.

Source: Guitar Player Magazine
Issue: June 1968 - page 15

Note: During the 1960's, the Count Basie Orchestra performed often in Las Vegas casino showrooms, mostly notably, The Sands. There are multiple recordings of the Basie band at The Sands, one with Frank Sinatra.

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