Archive for the 'Pioneers' Category

Herb Ellis Dies

April 4, 2010

Nicolai Foss

The last of the Great Guitars died on March 28. If you don’t own Detour Ahead: An Afternoon with Herb Ellis already, you should buy it. Lots of reminiscences and examples of Herb’s clean and swinging playing.

Joe Diorio

February 28, 2010

Nicolai Foss

Joe Diorio may not be known to jazz lovers or even to jazz guitarists to the same extent as, say, Pat Martino or Pat Metheny. He is, however, an innovator who is certainly on par with the two Pats. He shares with Martino the experience of suffering a near-fatal illness (Diorio had a stroke in 2005) and having to rebuild his chops almost completely. Here is an illuminating account of Diorio’s career, stroke and recovery. There is plenty of Diorio material on YouTube. And here are the results for Diorio. “Solo Guitar,” his breakthrough album, is highly recommended!

Michele Ariodante Mails Me on “Stage Fright”

October 31, 2009

Nicolai Foss

I earlier blegged on whether transcriptions are available of the great Kress/McDonough duet “State Fright”. Talented Italian guitarist, Michele Ariodante, who plays in the Lang-Kress-McDonough tradition (e.g., here and here), writes the following to me:

The sheet music for ‘Stage fright’, although not a note-for-note transcription (is an arrangement for one guitar, without chords but has tablatures)is published on page 52 of ‘Masters of the plectrum guitar’ edited by Mel Bay. It should be a reprint of the 1935 edition (I presume the tabs have been added from the editors). Even with a lot of missing stuff the solo line is much similar to the original and fun to play.
P.S.For the Kress-mcDonough fans: if you’re looking for a real gem, check out the cd ‘Saturday night swing club’ by Memphis Archives: radio transcription from the 1937 and Kress/McDonough play a live version of ‘Chicken a la swing’ backed by a big band. Following, always with big band,other two minutes of pure swing with ‘I know that you know’. If they only had recorded more in that format!

Lloyd Loar Article in Acoustic Guitar

August 23, 2009

Nicolai Foss

The September issue of Acoustic Guitar features an article by Walter Carter on “Loar’s Legacy.” I guess most of the info is available here and there on the net, but the article brings the entire Loar story together in a compact well-written form.

HT to Randy Westgren.

Eddie Lang Playing Stack-O’-Lee Blues

August 20, 2009

Nicolai Foss

The rather trivial 1895 murder of William Lyons by Lee Shelton must have been covered in several hundred, slightly different, songs about “Stagger Lee”, “Stack-O-Lee”, “Stagolee”, etc., from Missisipi John Hurt to The Clash. I only realized today that jazz guitar pioneer Eddie Lang had participated in a 1928 recording of the song with Cliff Edwards (of Disney fame) singing. Note Eddie’s strange “slap-guitar” plucking, starting around 0.13.

Pat Martino Unstrung

May 17, 2009

Nicolai Foss

Here is the link to the official site for the recent Unstrung movie on Pat Martino’s amazing musical recovery from a brain operation that essentially totally erased all of his musical and artistic knowledge. I am definitely going to order this, not just because I am an admirer of Martino’s playing, but also because the movie interestingly explores the broader implications for cognitive science of the Martino case.

Mary Osborne on YouTube

May 17, 2009

Nicolai Foss

Mary Osborne was IMHO one of the major guitarists coming directly out of the Christian bag. Her style was direct, hardswinging and muscular (one hesitates to say “macho”). Unfortunately, there is precious little available on CD or on the internet. A compilation CD was isued back in 1993, a year after her death, but is rather pricey.

Here is a YouTube clip with Mary playing “I Love Paris” and “These Foolish Things” from the A Girl and Her Guitar 1959 session. Her playing on the former is twangy (as befits someone playing the Gretsch White Falcon), and an interesting contrast to Tommy Flanagan’s delicate piano playing. To repeat: We want more Mary!

(Jazz) Guitarists as Stylistic Innovators

March 26, 2009

Nicolai Foss

Although I confess to being heavily biased, I do think there is a case for claiming that jazz encyclopedia and books on the evolution of jazz typically downplay the role of guitarists. Charlie Christian’s role as a bebop innovator may be mentioned but that is about it. In an interesting academic paper, “No one had ever heard a guitar played like that before,” Paul Carr of the University of Glamorgan, points to innovative role in defining fusion/jazz-rock of guitarists like Corryell and McLaughlin who both were “authentic practicioners” both jazz and rock traditions (in contrast to Miles Davis). Definitely worth a read!

Recent Howard Roberts Re-Issues

March 24, 2009

Nicolai Foss

Howard Roberts may not be as well known as Kessel, Pass, Farlow, Smith et al., but for many jazz guitar afficionados he belongs in that league. Roberts combined the drive of Farlow, the earthiness of Kessel, and the technical mastery of Smith. And added his own distinctive touch.

I heard Howard Roberts play in the Montmartre in Copenhagen around 1981-2. If I remember correctly, he played a Gibson L5S (but perhaps it was really the Gibson HR Fusion, which I think must have been out at this time). His technique was absolutely astonishing and I remember some of the local guitarists (I am pretty sure a young Doug Raney was on stage with Howard) literally dropping jaws in awe of his amazing dexterity. HR’s The Real Howard Roberts (currently on sale at Amazon for 60 USD!!!) is among my top-5 jazz guitar albums. For the ultimate HR resource, check Mike Evans’ fabuloussite.

Roberts’ recordings have until recently been difficult to find. Luckily, much material has been re-released within the last decade. I just received my copies of Mr. Roberts Plays Guitar (first released in 1956; re-released in 2008) and Good Pickin’s (released in 1959; re-released in 2006).

I am still digesting these two great albums, but they are clearly distinct. “Mr. Roberts” comes complete with a string quartet on a number of the tracks, and is general much more arranged and polite than “Pickin’s” which has much more straightahead blowing. The distinctive Roberts style with its “funk” was clearly developed already at this early stage of his career (Roberts was 27 when “Mr. Roberts” was recorded but clearly a very mature player). The blues was always a strong force in Roberts’ playing, and the source of that is revealed in the liner notes to Good Pickin’s: Playing the blues, and nothing but the blues, in the 2-3 “negro jazz clubs” of Phoenix in the years immediately after the 2nd World War. Both CDs are terrific and highly recommended.

New Les Paul Twofer

March 1, 2009

Nicolai Foss

While I was aware that Les Paul (b. 1915; he is still among us) had jammed with Charlie Christian, had been a very prolific member of the JATP gang, and had actually recorded with Pat Martino, I had never listened to his music until the arrival in my postbox of the new Avid two-CD collection, Les Paul: The Jazzman (so titled to distinguish these recordings from those of Rhubarb Red: The Country Musician, or Les Paul: The Multi-track Pop Artist, etc.), priced at the ridiculously low price of 3,98 GBP.

All of the tracks are from 1944 or 1945, and feature Paul with the likes of JJ Johnson, Illinois Jacquet, Nat “King” Cole, Vic Dickenson, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Arnold Ross, Barney Kessel, etc. As this indicates the music is largely swing, with some traces of early bebop. The JATP sessions are … well … “robust” with some pretty awful screaming by Jacquet but very nice solo work by Paul. The most stylish contributions are, however, his work with smaller combos, perhaps particularly his work with quartets, where there is substantial space for stretching out.

The liner notes (by Brian Priestley) seem to make Art Tatum the main influence on Paul’s playing. However, I think the over-whelming influence is actually Django Reinhardt; much of Paul’s playing on these tracks sounds like–in fact, anticipates–Reinhardt’s electrical playing (1947-1953). Buy this twofer!