Teddy Bunn with the Spirits of Rhythm

September 24, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Teddy Bunn may be one of the prime candidates for the title of most-undeservedly-overlooked-jazz-guitast. Bunn was a contemporary of Django Reinhardt and Oscar Aleman, and like them, but unlike other contemporaries such as Carl Kress and Dick McDonough, Bunn cultivated a single-string approach to jazz guitar. Perhaps closest to Aleman’s punchy style and technique (Bunn also picked with his thumb), but an admirer of Reinhardt, Bunn was overshadowed by both. However, his stuff is most certainly worth listening to, particularly for the pretty, simple, bluesy, and extremely rhytmically vital improvisations he put forward. They were seldom longer than a single chorus (which for an guitar player in the 1930s was already a lot). His playing sometimes strikes me as something like a 1930s equivalent of Grant Green.

About a week ago, I received my copy of Spirits of Rhythm, 1932-1941, and I have been listening to little else since then. This is great, happy and hard swinging music, carried out on a paper-wrapped suitcase, tiples, and of course Teddy’s Masterbuilt Epi (he later played a Gibson Super 400). Bunn absolutely shines on these cuts, particularly on the mock spiritual, “I will be ready when the great day comes”. The later cuts feature Bunn on electric guitar.

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3 Responses to “Teddy Bunn with the Spirits of Rhythm”

  1. Jorgen Says:

    Thanks for remembering a great guitarist. The sides recorded with Spirits of Rhythm remain an indispensable treasure of the 1930s string legacy, any time!
    Great site, keep up the good work.
    Jorgen

  2. Nicolai Foss Says:

    Jorgen, I agree completely. Are you going to research Bunn like you did with Aleman? Or have you done research on him already? Cheers, Nicolai Foss

  3. Jorgen Says:

    Hi Nicolai. Sorry, I have not done extensive research on Bunn, anyway, I suggest readers interested in listening to great sessions feat. Bunn to get a cd from Blue Note featuring the Port Of Harlem Jazzmen – this cd also has the 4 solo sides recorded by Bunn for Blue Note in 1940. This is essential Bunn recordings. Also worth looking for his trio-recordings with Hot Lips Page, also from 1940. Further, some early highlights may be found among many recording feat. the various combinations of Washboard Rhythm Kings from 1930-31. Well, this may reach for a start.
    Keep up the good work!
    Jorgen


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