Jimmy Gourley

October 8, 2008

Nicolai Foss

James Pasco Gourley (b. 1926) has often been taken to be a Jimmy Raney copy. This may explain why Gourley is clearly underrated, and little known outside of France, where he has lived since, I believe, the beginning of the 1950s. While Gourley was a childhood acquaince of Lee Konitz, the Raney of the alto, succeeded Raney in the guitar chair of the Jay Burkhart combo in the mid-1940s, and indeed was influenced by him, Gourley’s style is more direct and hard swinging than Raney’s, more hard-boppish, sometimes even gutsy.

For example, check this great clip of “Montagne Madness,” probably from around 1980. (There is quite a lot of Gourley on YouTube). Like Raney in the beginning of his career, Gourley played the ES-150 with the Charlie Christian Pickup, but, unlike Raney, Gourley continued working with this instrument, playing it to this day (Raney played many different archtops, among them the Guild Artist Award).

Here is a French “Retrospective” (check the photo with a very distinguished looking Raney, and the less serious Gourley, René Thomas, and Sascha Distel).

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5 Responses to “Jimmy Gourley”

  1. Elie Kleiman Says:

    Jimmy Gourley passed away last Sunday. He was 82 years old and still playing occasionally. His son Sean Gourley leaves in Paris where he actively performs as a distinguished jazz guitarist and singer. Look him up on You Tube or on Myspace. I have posted some videos (retrieved from You Tube) on both my Facebook page and @ Myspace/archtopmania.

  2. r.gourley Says:

    Jimmy was my cousin……he was one of the best….had just talked to him at Thanksgiveing

  3. jon wheatley Says:

    I heard Jimmy in person in Paris in the early 80’s. He certainly was an original player with his own voice. He held his own with Kenny Clarke, Art Taylor, the best rhythms sections and the best hornmen anywhere. He stuck to his guns and kept his music pure and beautiful.

  4. Peter Says:

    Jimmy Gourley was from a unique era that gave us the legends.
    I’ll never forget his cotribution to the 1979 Blues album done by harmonica player Sugar Blue (called “Crossroads”).
    I am sad to hear of Jimmy’s passing.

  5. thom douvan Says:

    Jimmy was an important jazz guitarist who chose to pursue his career in Europe where jazz is more appreciated than in the U.S. I met Jimmy in 1980 in Paris and he was a true gentleman. Jimmy played and recorded with Clifford Brown. His records with organist Eddie Louis are worth searching out. Jimmy’s clarity of tone and fluid and articulate lines set him apart and made him a favorite of the who’s who of jazz guitarists — Jim Hall, Jimmy Raney and others. I am sad to hear of his passing as well.


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