10 Influential Jazz Guitar LPs

Yet another top 10 list, but this one is the list that was most influential to me as a developing guitarist. There are so many names that aren’t here, yet they still influenced me, perhaps Tal Farlow and Herb Ellis are the biggest. Missing also are many great records that I couldn’t include in a list of just ten. Having said that, here is the list in no particular order.

Joyous Lake– Pat Martino

Pat Martino
Joyous Lake - Pat Martino

Wow! Fusion that rocks! I stumbled onto this album in college and it hit me with the right sound at the right time. Sophisticated jazz runs on rock sounding guitars over very cool drumming and keyboards with 70’s synth sounds. It was a perfect blend of the jazz world and the rock world for me. There is a reason they call this guy the Velvet Hammer. This was my first Pat Martino album and I bought all that I could find after that. They are all great but there will always be a special place in my heart for Joyous Lake.

Intercontinental– Joe Pass

Joe Pass
Intercontinental

My first jazz guitar recording that I really heard was Joe Pass playing I Love You from this album. This was the first time that I heard a guitar player front a trio instead of a piano player and it became one of the great drivers in my development as a jazz guitarist. To this day I still listen to this LP often and have figured out tons of ideas from it. It remains a benchmark for me to strive towards.

The Legendary Lenny Breau …Now! – Lenny Breau

My introduction to Lenny Breau was from my teacher, Mr. Reese,  back in the early 1980s. He gave me a tape of a tape of a tape of Lenny playing It Could Happen To You as a

Lenny Breau
Legendary Lenny Breau Now

solo guitar piece. This was unlike anything I had ever heard before. It was over 20 years before I would actually acquire the LP with this recording and I greatly valued that awful audio quality tape of a tape until the day I got the album. I was fortunate to not only get a copy of the recording from my teacher, but also a transcription of the tune! Needless to say, this affected me and my playing greatly. I loved Lenny’s ability to keep a swinging time while playing the melody, laying down the steady chords and even throwing in solo lines. It was a perfect blend of classical and stride guitar technique with jazz sensibilities. It still inspires me today. Of course the harmonics are out of this world. If you take lessons from me, you can get my updated version of that transcription complete with TAB!

Movin’ – Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery
Movin'

My mom gave me this LP for Christmas one year. It was actually a re-release of two albums: Movin’ Along and Full House. This was my second jazz record ever and who could ask for a better record! I remember getting a new needle for my turntable at the store and crankin’ this album up. This is how jazz is supposed to be, full of energy and excitement, on the edge and yet at times soulful and introspective. I went to college with three jazz records and this was one of them. It offers lessons for a lifetime. Would I, could I generate this much excitement on a gig with just a handful of people in the audience?

Wired– Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck
Wired

Most would not consider this a jazz album, but it was my bridge from rock to jazz. This combined with a tune or two from Rik Emmett on Triumph LPs sent me to the other side of the street. I remember learning Goodbye Pork Pie Hat and feeling comfortable with the melody but not understanding or hearing the harmony at all. Jeff executed perfectly what my vision of rock guitar was on Wired and Blow By Blow: a great combination of fire, aggressiveness, distorted tones, sophisticated harmonies and melodic solo ideas. It bridged both worlds for me and got me excited about checking out straight ahead jazz guitarists. Jeff has made a career of constantly changing and challenging himself and his listeners. It is something for us all to aspire to.

Swinging Easy – Barney Kessel

Barney Kessel
Swinging Easy

This was the first jazz LP that I ever bought. I had heard of Barney Kessel from PBS shows of the Great Guitars. I wanted to get some jazz records but had a hard time finding any (this was the late ’70s in Orlando and I was just a kid). I found this one in a bargain bin in the local store at the mall. Needless to say I loved it and it was on a permanent rotation on my turntable for many years.

Handcrafted – Kenny Burrell

Kenny Burrell
Handcrafted

What tone this guy has and his consistency of playing has been there throughout his career. This album really appealed to me because it is a trio album and Kenny more than adequately fills the role as frontman. I love the acoustic guitar  on some of the tunes such as So Little Time. The whole date is laid back and Kenny just has a knack for creating soulful inspired improvisations. It still inspires me to get back into the practice room.

Virtuoso – Joe Pass

Joe Pass
Virtuoso

This one should really be all of the Virtuoso albums  as they opened up a whole different world for me. Early on I imagined being a guitar player good enough to fill the shoes of the piano player in a trio, i.e. outlining the harmony while either playing the melody or playing inspired solos. But here was Joe playing it all. It combined my love of solo classical guitar and stride guitar with jazz and improvisation. It was astounding and at once provided inspiration and desperation. I didn’t know whether to try twice as hard or quit.

Swinging Sevens – Bucky & John Pizzarelli

Pizzarelli
Swinging Sevens

What blew me away about the early Pizzarelli albums was the great acoustic tone that they had. Their duos which included both arranged parts and plenty of improvising were new to me as well. I really liked the idea of two guitar players sitting down and just playing a bunch of tunes together but in an organized manner, not just jamming. Mostly though it was the very acoustic sound of these records that ultimately led me to acquiring my own real acoustic archtop guitars. Little did I know that I would become a seven stringer as well. Of course I never imagined that I’d be able to play with and perform with these guys!

Plays For Satin Dolls – Buddy Fite

Buddy Fite
Plays For Satin Dolls

It’s a tough call for my tenth pick, but I thought I’d include Buddy Fite because he has such a unique sound. He seemed to combine many different elements that I had in my background and I think that I can still hear some of him in my playing, including the juggling act between comping and soloing. Buddy always had things in the pocket and didn’t sound stiff when juggling so many things and ideas. To me that is important; it is cool to see someone cover a lot of ground but if it ain’t got that swing, then it don’t mean a thing.

The Year of Gypsy Jazz


Swing 42
Swing 42

Last year my good friend Jerry Sims called me up and asked if I was ready to buy a gypsy jazz guitar. I replied very quickly with “No”. Jerry was not to be denied and before I knew it, I had a new gypsy jazz guitar, a new microphone to attach to it, a new amp, a pile of new books, a new band, a new photo shoot, and a page full of homework to keep me busy for the next 12 months. It has been a whirlwind to say the least but I’ve had a good time learning about the music of Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli and other gypsy jazz artists.Of course all this work led to a new project and a new group. Swing 42 is the culmination of this work. You can see what this group is up to over at their website: http://www.swing42hotclub.com/ Of course I’m still playing my archtops and you can catch me on plenty of gigs in a more “traditional?” setting, but this gypsy thing is pretty fun…