I know there are a number of people on this site who play swing style rhythm guitar. A Hamilton player, Jackie Washington sparked my interest in this type of guitar playing in the early sixties and I learned a bunch of chords from Mickey Baker's black & yellow Jazz Guitar book. Here are a few turn-arounds that I've picked up over the years - I've put them in G, but they may be transposed to any key:
Each of the major chords can sometimes be replaced by a Ma7 or 6th chord. The last D7 can be altered by flatting the 5th, adding a 9th... any dominant 7th substitution. Anyone else have any tricks to share?
As well as the Mickey Baker chords, there is also a set of chords for comping style guitar in "Swing and Big Band Guitar" by Charlton Johnson published by Hal Leonard.
These chords are based mainly on the sixth, fourth, and third strings. Six string chords are considered by many to be too "muddy" for big band work.
There is a fabulous website freddiegreen.com dedicated to Basie's long time guitarist. It seems that Freddie Green played one note chords (!) for much of the time - that is fingering a chord shape but only letting the note on the fourth string sing, so you got a percussive guitar sound with only the one note ringing out.
Bucky Pizzarelli has recently, (2006 Arbors Records,) recorded a CD called 5 for Freddie as a tribute to Green. Bucky plays with drive, restraint and swing. Fabulous.
As well as playing substitutions to make rhythm playing more interesting, like adding sixths and major sevenths to major chords, and substituting minor sevenths for dominant sevenths, I like to make melodic progressions with the chords.
When I am on the same chord, say Bb, for two bars, I would play Bb Cm7 Dbdim Bb with two beats on each chord as a rising progression, starting at the 6th fret. Or as a falling one starting at Eb7 at the 11th I would try Eb7 Dbmaj7 Cm7 Eb7.
If you want to be able to hear, rather than just feel Freddie Green, listen to an album called Rhythm Willie (with a limberjack on the cover) with just Herb Ellis and Freddy Green on guitars joined by pianist Ross Tompkins, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Jake Hanna. I'm not sure if it's available on CD.
Thanks for that heads up! I've heard a couple things with Freddie Greene but you have to wait to hear a glimpse between the lines. Usually he's just doing his job buried in the mix. He drives the band, but listener's would have to sit with the trombones to hear him.
I always thought it was a cool concept, and Wynton Marsalis thinks Big Band is missing something without it.
I am getting into swing guitar. The banjo person that I am playing with is doing things like "Sweet Georgia Brown" , " Bye-bye Blues" , "Little Rock Get Away" I am using swing chords behind him. I don't know it these are typical swing songs but they work well with them.