"Four Brothers" in the style of Freddie Green

"Four Brothers" was a hit for Woody Herman and his Orchestra. Recorded in December 1947, and written by Jimmy Giuffre, "Four Brothers" referred to the unusual combination of four saxes employed by Herman on certain charts: three tenors and a baritone. The 1947 recording featured Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, and Herbie Steward on tenor, with Serge Chaloff on baritone. In 1948, Al Cohn would join the Herman band. Cohn, Getz, Sims, and Chaloff in one band....imagine that!

Over the past 60 years, "Four Brothers" has become a jazz standard. Though Freddie Green did record with Woody Herman in December 1962, for the LP The New World of Woody Herman, "Four Brothers" was not included. Freddie never recorded "Four Brothers", but it is likely that he played the tune at some time during his long career.

Much of the research on this website emphazises Freddie's unique "one note chord" technique, but that was only one of his methods. He also used "two note chords", or dyads. This "Four Brothers" arrangement consists only of dyads - the smallest being an interval of a minor third, and the largest being an interval of a minor seventh. Every dyad is a subset of a common three or four note chord form. A recommended exercise is to link each dyad to a common chord form.

The small Arabic numerals below each measure indicate what chords tones are used for each dyad: 1 (root), 3 (major or minor third), 5 (perfect fifth), 6 (major sixth), 7 (minor seventh). When the bassist's notes are combined with Freddie's dyads, the fundamental harmonic changes of the tune are established. This frees the pianist from having to provide the basic harmonic structures.

Note the melodic lines that are created by using dyads. Just like a well-constructed walking bass line has a melodic component, so did Freddie's rhythm guitar parts. Many of Freddie's colleagues in the Basie band commented that his guitar parts made melodic sense as well as harmonic sense. Note how the dyads combine to create a singable melodic line.

While all six strings are strummed, it is essential to clearly sound only the two notes of the dyad; all other strings are muted. Holding the guitar like Freddie facilitates these muting techniques. The low E string is muted by the left thumb. The A string is muted by the tip of the left finger being used on the 4th string, or by the tip of the left thumb. The D string is muted with the fleshy pad of the left finger being used on the 5th string. The G string is muted by the fleshy pad on the left finger being used on the 4th string. The B string and E string are muted by the undersides of the left fingers being used on the 5th, 4th, and 3rd strings. Left hand fingerings are left up to each player, as what is comfortable for one, may not be comfortable for others.

Refer to other articles in this "Lessons and Technique" section for detailed explanations of Freddie's playing style.

Michael Pettersen
September 2011


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