Jazz History, Jazz musicians

Lang's pioneering guitar work in the 1920s paved the way for the two jazz-guitar giants of the 1930s: Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian.

Django Reinhardt developed a unique style of playing

Django Reinhardt developed a unique style of playing after damaging two fingers.
Reinhardt lost the use of two fingers in his left hand after a horrific caravan fire. Astonishingly, he overcame the disability and developed a way of playing the guitar with just the first two fingers of his left hand. He formed the Quintette du Hot Club de France with violinist Stephane Grappelli and other musicians in 1933. They were a resounding success, recording more than 100 songs and touring all over Europe. Django s soloing set new standards in jazz lead guitar and influenced practically every other jazz guitarist from the 1930s through to the 1950s. Charlie Christian was also hugely influential; he emerged in the early 1940s as the first electric-guitar virtuoso, playing saxophone-like lead lines at a volume that could compete with other jazz instruments.


By the 1950s. the more complex bebop style was well established and a number of exciting guitarists began to appear Barney Kessel was an acclaimed bop' soloist who became a session ace and played in bands fronted by Chico Marx and Oscar Peterson; Tal Farlow expanded the jazz-guitar chord vocabulary and was one of the first guitarists to be able to play a harmonic note from every fret of the instrument. Johnny Smith developed a subtle chord-oriented style and had a hit with the mellow Moonlight In Vermont' (1952).

Acclaimed bop guitarist Tal Farlow

Acclaimed bop guitarist Tal Farlow has influenced everyone from Al Di Meola to Scotty Moore and John McLaughlin.

Jazz Superstars

Jim Hall. Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell were the big jazz guitar names during the 1960s. Hall, unlike most other virtuosos, did not play lots of notes in his solos. In fact, he took the opposite approach and his phrases were usually thoughtful and lyrical, displaying a depth and subtlety that few other guitarists have ever been able to achieve. Wes Montgomery developed an unusual style by using his thumb as a pick. He was one of the first solo guitar players to effortlessly mix single notes with octaves and chords. Kenny Burrell forged a cool, tasteful bop style that established him as one of the most popular instrumental voices in jazz. It was also during the 1960s that the first jazz-guitar supergroup. Great Guitars, was bom. Featuring Charlie Byrd. Herb Ellis and Barney Kessel. Great Guitars was an eclectic mainstream band that pitted Byrd's Latin and classical style against the other two players' straight-ahead bop.

Joe Pass began playing the guitar aged nine

Joe Pass began playing the guitar aged nine and covered a huge range of styles, including Jazz, bebop, blues and Latin.
Joe Pass was another great jazz-guitar player to emerge during the 1960s. although he didn't become truly popular until the following decade. Using a phenomenal right-handed finger technique, he was able to play melodies, chords and bass lines all at the same time, and usually performed as a solo player. His album Virtuoso (1973). recorded for Norman Granz's Pablo label, made him a jazz star and he later accompanied the likes of Ella Fitzgerald. Count Basie. Duke Ellington and Oscar Peterson.

Jazz Fusion

During the 1970s. a number of guitar players began to fuse jazz with rock: the most influential of these were John McLaughlin. Al Di Meola and Allan Holdsworth. McLaughlin was the lead guitar player on Miles Davis's pioneering jazz-rock album Bitches Brew (1969). and he took the direction further with his own band the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Al Di Meola developed a formidable picking technique and fused jazz with Latin and rock styles on his critically acclaimed albums Elegant Gypsy (1977) and Casino (1978). Allan Holdsworth developed a truly unique and idiosyncratic style, characterized by spectacular chord voicings and fleet legato solos. He became one of the decade's most sought-after fusion players.

Jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan

Jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan employs a unique, two-handed picking style to create his sound
A number of other great jazz-guitar players have emerged during the past 30 years, including Pat Metheny. Larry Carlton. Martin Taylor. Stanley Jordan. John Scofield. Bill Frisell and Scott Henderson. Of all these. Pat Metheny has enjoyed the most commercial success. He has forged an earthy and mellow jazz style that appeals to both hardcore jazzers and easy listeners. Few other jazz players have made their music so accessible without sacrificing their integrity.