and his Gibson ES-150 changed that and elevated guitar to lead instrument status alongside the saxophone and trumpetinstruments that could acoustically cut through the sound of a piano-bass-drums rhythm section. Here, we encapsulate some of the progenitors of jazz guitar and their contributions to the music.
to help explain the jazz of New Orleans) included Spanish guitar, with all its soloing: see for example the Spanish guitar composer Tarrega, active into the early 20th Century. Tarrega himself had been prone to running away from school as a child to hear gypsy music, so a possible gypsy element (pre- Django Reinhardt) may also have had an influence on the early jazz guitar.
Eddie Lang / Eddie Durham / Lonnie Johnson
In any event, by the late-1920s-early-'30s two guitarists had become well known in jazz. The first was Eddie Lang
, before any of the others), his guitar style is very fluent and essentially not duplicable. It's too fluent. Despite his revolutionary music, like Eddie Lang he also died very young, in 1942 at the age of 25. This was when his great (eventual) successor, Wes Montgomery (see below), heard him as a nineteen year old and decided to play guitar.
Here is a clip of Christian's famous big band record "Solo Flight" with Benny Goodman's orchestra (1941):
was a very fast and fluid modern jazz guitarist who rose in the 1950s. In the clip below he talks about his influences and how jazz guitar existed in the earlier days. The tune played is Charlie Christian's "Airmail Special":
Wes Montgomery / Kenny Burrell / Joe Pass / Jim Hall
had recorded his second album. Discovered a few months earlier at the age of 36, he changed jazz guitar by simply being extraordinary. For some people he is jazz guitar. Below, he plays Thelonious Monk's classic, "'Round Midnight":
Almost as famous, and almost as laid back, is Kenny Burrell
, his Midnight Blue (Blue Note, 1960) is a midnight jazz classic, and much imitated. I still have to identify and levy deserved justice on the UCLA student organizer who did not schedule an accurate time listing of performers at a UCLA jazz and reggae festival in 2006, so that I and a Hollywood film editor I met at the festival both missed Burrell (he hardly ever plays). I did, however, see John Scofield:
was a follow-on from the guitarists in group IV. Most famous as a solo performer, melody and chords blending in his brilliant style, he was an even bigger household name than Ellis, Byrd and Kessel. Indeed, he even physically resembled both Eddie Lang and Django Reinhardt.