Billy Bauer (1915 - 2005) was already an established professional guitarist in New York when players like Johnny Smith and Jimmy Raney arrived on the scene. He played with the Jerry Wald band before joining Woody Herman in 1944 as a member of the 1st Herd. And in 1946 he played with Benny Goodman and Jack Teagarden.
Billy Bauer established and distinguished himself as a solid rhythm player with these bands but it was in the small groups that emerged from these bands, lead by Chubby Jackson, Bill Harris and Lennie Tristano, that Billy Bauer established himself as a significant soloist in the evolving bebop movement. Billy Bauer's solo work with these groups has been sited as some of the best examples of early bebop guitar. But, more significantly, his solo work has been sited as some of the most progressive playing for any era. His work with Lennie Tristano in the mid 1940's certainly represented some of the most progressive guitar playing up to that time.
The trio and duet recordings Bauer made with Tristano around 1945 are especially interesting. Tristano and Bauer enjoyed a natural synergy in style and approach to their music. Tristano's intricate arrangements were a perfect match for Bauer's guitar. These examples demonstrated that Bauer was not just a good guitarist, but also an outstanding musician. His unison playing with Tristano was precise, and his accompaniment to Tristano's piano represented some of the best and earliest examples of great guitar comping.
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