Overlooked Jazz Guitar Albums

December 4, 2009

Nicolai Foss

Jason Shadrick lists seven overlooked jazz guitar albums. I don’t think Jimmy Raney’s “Live in Tokyo” is exactly overlooked among jazz guitar afficionados, and I am too much of a traditionalist/reactionary to be familiar with the other ones he lists, so let me instead add my own take on a few (at least somewhat) overlooked jazz guitar albums:

George Benson: Giblet Gravy. Benson was arguably the greatest straight-ahead jazz guitarist of the late 1960s/early 1970s. This album features Benson in full flight in front of a big band with pop melodies of the day, and with a quartet (featuring Herbie Hancock). The album is worth buying for the quartet’s version of “Billie’s Bounce” alone.

Elec Bacsik: The Electric Guitar of the Eclectic Elec Bacsik (reissued in 2002 by Gitanes Jazz Production but now out of production). A tour de force. ‘nough said.

George Barnes: Don’t Get Around Much Anymore. This is the quartet with Duncan James on rhythm. Recorded live in 1974. Funny, lively, hardswinging, and complete with George’s silly jokes. His version of “When Sunny gets Blue” should be sufficient to dispel talk of Barnes as a “Dixieland guitarist” (with the implied put-down) (transcription here).

Tal Farlow: Cookin’ on All Burners. OK — admittedly this is not exactly an unknown album (there is a even a wiki on it). But I maintain that given how fabulously good it is, it is underrated. One of the top 10 albums, ever!

Billy Bauer: Plectrist. Bauer’s only recording as a leader. Perfection!

And your candidates for overlooked albums??

6 Responses to “Overlooked Jazz Guitar Albums”

  1. Michele Ariodante Says:

    I would like to add an overlooked recording of the most underrated and ingenious guitar player in jazz history: Lenny Breau. Listen to ‘Live at Bourbon St.’ and you’ll ask yourself why the enormous talent of this man has been so ignored by critics and guitar fans.

    • Mike Ducey Says:

      Wayne Wright was one of my closest friends. Joe Pass introduced us in the early 80’s because he thought we both had the same kind of crazy humor. Wayne and his wife would have me over for dinner and Wayne would introduce me to the music of George Barnes, Carl Kress, Martin Taylor, and Tal Farlow.
      I love how you play Kress’ arrangements. Do you ever come to the U.S. to play?
      Please take a look at my website. If you wish to contribute an article there or on my website Jazzipedia (which I will be reworking) in the future, I’d love it! Do you have albums out in that same tradition of playing?

  2. Gianni Says:

    good work. I’d say anything by Tal Farlow has been overlook…I mean the guy was not only an incredibly skilled guitarist, but a fenomenal musician altogether.

  3. Jørgen Larsen Says:

    Hi Nilcolai,
    I’ll add a few items to the list, sticking to the pioneers, anyway, I fully agree with the statement posted by Mr. Ariodante above. – The almost forgotten Snoozer Quinn was recorded by trumpeter Johnny Wiggs late ’40’ies on non-professional equipment, however, the tapes of these impromptu sessions feat. Snoozer alone at some New Orleans hospital’s visiting room were issued by the Fat Cat label in 1969, a true collectors’ item, unfortunately never re-issued on cd. – The other overlooked album I’d like to mention here is the ‘rediscovery’ of Oscar Alemán through his album from the small Argentine Redondel label, recorded Sept.-Oct. 1972 and issued as ‘Alemán ’72’. – Why do most jazz critics think that the ‘real thing’ regarding jazz guitar has its origins in the US and always past 1950?
    Jørgen Larsen

  4. Nicolai Foss Says:

    Jørgen — The Snoozer tracks may not be available on CD, but they are available here: http://www.booze-bros.com/snoozer.html

  5. Saku Mantere Says:

    From the classics, I would add Johnny Smith’s work in particular “Walk, Don’t Run.” JS is recognized as an important voice but you don’t hear his music that much.

    A more recent discovery that we should hear a lot more about is Rez Abbasi. He seems to belong to a group of musicians with Vijay Iyer and Rudesh Mahantappa that is in the process of rewriting jazz language based on their heritage. There have been a lot of attempts of “fusion” between jazz and other traditions, but it seems that these people are genuinely creating a new idiom which we really haven’t seen since the free jazz movement.

    A pretty great amateur clip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCRCxXpiliQ


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