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Extended Analysis

100 Years of Jazz Guitar

By Published: October 12, 2005
Various Artists
100 Years of Jazz Guitar

Containing a veritable encyclopedia of written information about the guitarists who have molded jazz during its century of development, this four-CD boxed set has it all. From the earliest recorded traces of jazz guitar to Bill Frisell and John Scofield, it's all there for study and listening pleasure.

Early traditional jazz, blues, and ragtime included pioneering guitar refrains from legendary figures such as George F. Dudley, Roy Butin, Sam Moore, Johnny St. Cyr, and Lonnie Johnson. Louis Armstrong didn't always relegate his guitarists to simply keeping the beat. With his Hot Five, they improvised a melody on the front line with as much strength as the leader's powerful horn.

Eddie Condon brought people together and relished his role as rhythm maker. Carl Kress and Dick McDonough provide the earliest example of pure jazz as art when they improvise on "Danzon" with a swinging rapport. Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli follow with a big piece of history, as they swing with a portion of jazz that continues to be loved widely and interpreted freely today. Their acoustic swing and relaxed spontaneity puts a smile on faces young and old, near and far.

The electric and amplified guitar changed things. As Eddie Durham, on an electric model, interprets "Love Me or Leave Me" with Freddie Green on rhythm guitar, you can feel the mood switching from plain old outdoor country fun to a smoke-filled nightclub where intimacy reins. It's euphoric.

George Barnes played electric guitar on a 1940 session that included tenor saxophonist Phillip Ward in a swinging affair. Together, they take "Little Rock Getaway" for a stroll through the Swing Era with a lovely quartet. The recording has never been issued before now. Charlie Christian's "Solo Flight" with the Benny Goodman Orchestra in 1941 raised eyebrows and continues to serve as a perceived starting point for the guitar's successful integration into jazz. What follows simply builds upon that cornerstone and continues the tradition of spontaneity, swing, and spirit.

Teddy Bunn and Slim Gaillard provided swinging jazz that was fun. With Nat King Cole, Oscar Moore provided romantic jazz that nestled in comfortably with our senses. Then it was time for Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie to change the way that we view jazz.

Tiny Grimes plays the electric guitar with Bird on "Red Cross" from a 1946 session that finds the guitarist conversin' with Parker and steppin' out for a solo spot that ushered in bebop for keeps.

Barney Kessel, Jimmy Raney, Tal Farlow, George Van Eps, Chuck Wayne, and Les Paul demonstrate how suitable the guitar is as a solo instrument. In 1954, Tony Bennett's voice had the same emotional spirit that it has today. With Bennett, Chuck Wayne gave his interpretation of "My Baby Just Cares for Me" an intimate quality. Les Paul proved inspirational to many aspiring guitarists with his virtuosic display of blazing-fast technique.

Jim Hall and Bill Evans interpret "I've Got You Under My Skin" from a 1966 duo session that showcased the guitarist's fluid melodies and uncanny chorded accompaniment. Kenny Burrell's "Midnight Blue" remains one of the classic modern jazz recordings that belongs in every collector's desert island picks. His searing melodic improvisations come from deep within, as he lets his spirit take the music on a roll. Without that deeply felt inner quality, jazz is meaningless.

Wes Montgomery, Herb Ellis, Grant Green, and Joe Pass appear with fine examples of their stellar contributions to jazz history. George Benson appears with Ronnie Cuber and Lonnie Smith on a 1966 interpretation of "Clockwise," which features a fresh, up-tempo organ/guitar combo romp in the hard bop tradition. Pat Martino and Charlie Byrd demonstrate the power of jazz guitar as leader; then we turn to fusion.

Jimi Hendrix, John McLaughlin, John Abercrombie, and Ralph Towner capture a spirit that was beginning to envelop the world through mass audience gatherings and sultry jazz/rock adventures. Their cool approach maintained a jazz outlook while forging ahead into mystical explorations. Experimentation was the keyword. Still is, and should remain relevant to all that we pursue.

Smooth jazz, fusion, and pop/rock appear in the later years to remind us how far the shadow of a guitar's improvised melody extends. Today, we're faced with hundreds of fine jazz guitarists who all deserve our attention. Styles vary, and we eventually settle for one over the other.

More than five hours of influential jazz guitar makes 100 Years of Jazz Guitar monumental in its scope. It's all there in one package. Five of the tracks have never been issued before, and all of it comes with superbly mastered sound. Each track selected for this highly recommended project features a standout guitarist who has made a major impact on the history of jazz guitar.

Track Listing: St. Louis Tickle; Chain Gang Blues; Savoy Blues; You're the One for Me; Add a Little Wiggle; Clowin' the Frets; California Blues; How'm I Doin' / Dinah; Who's Sorry Now; Danzon; China Boy; Minnehaha; Swingin' on the Strings; Honeysuckle Rose; Guitar Swing; Love Me or Leave Me; Whispering; Pickin' for Patsy; Little Rock Getaway; Solo Flight; Buck Jumpin'; Twin Guitar Special; I'm Walkin' This Town; Palm Springs Jump; Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You?; Red Cross; Ol' Man Rebop; On Green Dolphin Street; What Is This Thing Called Love; Body and Soul; My Baby Just Cares for Me; Runnin' Wild; Mountain Melody; Yardbird Suite; The Boy Next Door; Tocata; I've Got You Under My Skin; Aguas de Março; Bluesette; Midnight Blue; Unit 7; Naptown Blues; Move; Easy Living; Jean de Fleur; Night and Day; Clockwise; Just Friends; A Taste of Honey; How Insensitive; Gypsy Queen; June the 15th, 1967; As We Used to Sing; Should Be Reversed; Manic Depression; Birds of Fire; Coral; Ralph's Piano Waltz; The Prowler; Bright Size Life; Aqui, Oh; Midnight in San Juan; Europa; Inner City Blues; Thumper; Spiral; Captain Fingers; Mr. Spock; Race With Devil on Spanish Highway; 'Cause We Ended as Lovers; Church; Ron Carter; Hottentot; Postizo; Fat Time.

Personnel: Vess Ossman: banjo; Sam Moore: octochorda; Johnny St. Cyr, Lonnie Johnson, Sol Hoopii, Eddie Lang, Eddie Bush, Benny "King" Nawahi, Roy Smeck, Eddie Condon, Carl Kress, Dick McDonough, Otto "Coco" Heimel, Sam Koki, Charlie Fuqua, Jerry Daniels, Ivory Watson, Django Reinhardt, Casey Bill Weldon, Eddie Durham, Freddie Green, Oscar Aleman, Allan Reuss, George Barnes, Charlie Christian, Al Casey, Leon McAuliffe, Eldon Shamblin, Teddy Bunn, Slim Gaillard, Oscar Moore, Tiny Grimes, Bill D'Arango, Barney Kessel, George Van Eps, Jimmy Raney, Chuck Wayne, Les Paul, Chet Atkins, Tal Farlow, Johnny Smith, Laurindo Almeida, Jim Hall, João Gilberto, Toots Thielemans, Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery, Herb Ellis, Hank Garland, Howard Roberts, Grant Green, Joe Pass, John Pisano, George Benson, Pat Martino, Lenny Breau, Charlie Byrd, Gabor Szabo, Larry Coryell, Sonny Sharrock, Derek Bailey, Jimi Hendrix, John McLaughlin, Mick Goodrick, John Abercrombie, Ralph Towner, Pat Metheny, Toninho Horta, Earl Klugh, Carlos Santana, Phil Upchurch, Arthur Adams, Eric Gale, Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, Allan Holdsworth, Al DiMeola, Jeff Beck, James "Blood" Ulmer, Bill Frisell, John Scofield, Marc Ribot, Mike Stern: guitar; others.

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