When you play with a big band, you usually don't play full chords like a folk guitarist might, and instead of letting the notes ring, you usually cut the chords short by releasing the notes with your fret hand in a constant pumping action. I've been working on "shell voicings." In jazz, there are usually two notes that really define the chord: the 3rd and the 7th. Other parts of the chord add a certain amount of color, and it's usually the pianist's job to add the "extra" notes. In laymen's terms, this means that, when you play shell voicings, you reduce the chords to just two notes. This takes a while to get used to. Most guitarists can automatically play full chord shapes, but it takes a certain amount of theoretical knowledge, fretboard knowledge, and practice to isolate the two fingers that are playing the "essential" notes.
Last night was a great opportunity to practice playing shell voicings in big band parts. I was pleased with how I did. The Sentimental Journey Orchestra's regular guitarist is out of town for the next few weeks, so I'll be subbing quite a bit, having a blast playing with a good big band and practicing my shell voicings.
Freddie Green, who played with the Count Basie Orchestra. Acting as a human metronome to help drive the Basie band, Freddie Green played strict quarter notes and played nothing but 3-note chords and shell voicings. I read a quote somewhere describing Freddie Green as the greatest guitarist to never take a solo.
To get an idea of what a master big band guitarist sounds like, here are a couple videos to enjoy. Corner Pocket, featuring the entire Count Basie Orchestra, was written by Freddie Green. Listen for Freddie's unmistakeable, unwavering pulse as he backs up the band. I Don't Know features the Basie rhythm section and gives you a more close up view of Freddie's playing.