Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

451

Classic Jazz Guitar

Bob Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
This article was originally published in August 2005.

To pick the Top 10 of anything is a tough task. When it comes to the subject of jazz guitar, the task is enormously difficult. However, these are the ten most influential guitarists (in my opinion), arranged in somewhat chronological order. Each recording listed is the one that either put them on the map or serves as an excellent example of their style. Because of the guitar's highly individualized nature, there are dozens of talented players who also brought something new to it, but unfortunately, we cannot include them here. I urge you to explore on your own. These ten recordings will be a good start.

Note: for some solid progressive jazz guitar suggestions, you may also wish to visit our modern jazz guitar collection.

Reissued dates included.

Eddie Lang: Jazz Guitar Virtuoso (Yazoo, 1990)
Eddie was the first jazz guitar virtuoso. Playing for Paul Whiteman and Bing Crosby, Eddie paved the way for every guitar soloist in the future. "Feeling My Way" is one of his greatest solo recordings.
Django Reinhardt: The Best of Django Reinhardt (Blue Note, 1996)
Django was Europe's greatest contribution to jazz guitar. He also brought the highly unique Gypsy sound in the the instrument's lexicon. His technical prowess despite a deformed left hand was astounding.
Charlie Christian: Genius of the Electric Guitar (Sony, 1990)
Charlie came to fame in the Benny Goodman Sextet. He was the first modern jazz guitarist and the one who popularized the use of amplifiers. His sound can be heard in almost every guitarist who came after him.
Johnny Smith: Moonlight in Vermont (Blue Note, 2004)
While he could be called the first Cool Jazz gutiarist, Johnny is more known for the tightly arranged chord voicings he played so effortlessly. He also brought a high level of technique and artistic sensibility to the jazz guitar.
Tal Farlow: The Return of Tal Farlow (Fantasy, 1991)
The tall, quiet North Carolina sign painter turned New York on its ear with his blistering solo runs and sophisticated Hard Bop sound. Tal was a marvelous guitarist who breathed new life into the jazz guitar tradition.
Wes Montgomery: Incredible Jazz Guitar (Fantasy, 1991)
The Indianapolis native changed the whole landscape when he came on the scene. Not since Charlie Christian had anyone so redefined what the instrument could do. From silky octaves to warm thumb plucked chordal passages, Wes' sound is fresh and modern to this day.
Kenny Burrell: Midnight Blue (Blue Note, 1999)
The sound of smoky late night clubs in the great cities of the Industrial Midwest can be heard in this Detroit native's playing. His urban lyricism and blues inflected tone has inspired generations of players.
Joe Pass: Virtuoso (Pablo, 2001)
Certainly, guitarists before him had played unaccompanied solo jazz guitar. But no one ever did it like Joe. With his melodic sense and endless repertoire the guitar was a complete big band in his hands. And we could listen for hours .
Jim Hall: Concierto (Sony, 1997)
Jim was and is an explorer. He brought an Impressionist ethic and a composer's instinct to his playing. His tone sought to break boundaries and broaden horizons while his technique was at all times subservient to the music.
Pat Metheny: American Garage (ECM, 1999)
Both a modern attitude and a bluesy Midwestern vibe are equally present in Pat's music. In some ways heir to Jim Hall's explorer mindset, Pat is wholly his own player, having redefined the nature of what jazz guitar can be.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Year in Review
Album Reviews
Reassessing
Album Reviews
Extended Analysis
Building a Jazz Library
Reassessing
Album Reviews
Multiple Reviews
Album Reviews
Film Reviews
Album Reviews
Read more articles
In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording

In Paris: The...

Resonance Records
2018

buy
One Night in Indy

One Night in Indy

Resonance Records
2018

buy
Live At The Turf Club

Live At The Turf Club

Resonance Records
2014

buy
Eight Classic Albums

Eight Classic Albums

Enlightenment
2012

buy

Related Articles

Building a Jazz Library
Klezmer: Jewish Jazz? Not really, but sometimes...
By Michael Winograd
April 10, 2019
Building a Jazz Library
John Butcher
By John Eyles
November 9, 2018
Building a Jazz Library
Cecil Taylor
By John Eyles
May 17, 2018
Building a Jazz Library
15 Emerging Norwegian Jazz Musicians You Need To Know About
By Luca Vitali
January 26, 2018
Building a Jazz Library
Evan Parker
By John Eyles
September 11, 2017
Building a Jazz Library
Forget Old Europe: 15 European Jazz Musicians You Need To Know About
By Enrico Bettinello
August 16, 2017
Building a Jazz Library
15 Italian Jazz Musicians You Need To Know About
By Enrico Bettinello
June 23, 2017