Archive for the 'Pioneers' Category

Finally — Johnny Smith on YouTube

December 18, 2008

Nicolai Foss

Until recently, every jazz guitarist in the world seemed to have a youtube presence, with one notable exception, namely the incomparable Johnny Smith. But, alas, here is Smith playing a fantastic version of “What Are You Doing For the Rest of Your Life?”. And here he is with Mundell Lowe, playing “7 come 11″ (and not sitting down?). Fairly low key playing for this standard!

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).

Ed Bickert

March 31, 2008

Nicolai Foss

Here is a tribute site to the great Ed Bickert. There is lots of Ed on YouTube. Ed Bickert is proof that you don’t need an archtop to play fantastic jazz guitar.

Louis Stewart

March 23, 2008

Nicolai Foss

One of the, if not the, greatest living European jazz guitarist is Louis Stewart. My particular favorite is his work with George Shearing and NHØP, which is now available in a nice four-fer. Here is Stewart’s site (which opens with an endorsement by Pat Martino; says something of the latter’s standing in the jazz guitar community!). There are a number of nice clips with Stewart on YouTube. My favorite is this version of “Honeysuckle Rose on Speed” aka “Scrapple from the Apple.”

Mundell Lowe’s Site

February 29, 2008

Nicolai Foss

One of the most stylish players of the first generation of bebop guitarists, Mundell Lowe, has his own site. Definitely worth a visit.

Grant Green Article

November 24, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Here is a learned and informative online article by Andrew Scott on Grant Green’s approach to the blues. The article includes three transcriptions. A key point is that Grant’s improvisatory approach was consistent throughtout his career, and didn’t change during his later “commercial” period. Here is a summary of the article:

My intentions in this article are twofold. First, I provide a musical and style analysis that aids understanding of Green’s improvisations. Second, I use my analysis of the three solos to counter writers Michel Cuscuna and Ben Sidran who assert that Green’s “commercial” output was inferior to his jazz recordings. [6] My transcription and analysis dispute these aforementioned critics, demonstrating that Green’s improvisatory style remained consistent throughout his career. Lastly, I suggest that rather than his playing, it was Green’s changing aggregations and repertoire that critics found problematic.

New Oscar Aleman CDs

October 4, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Until recently only a relatively small portion of Oscar Aleman’s recorded output appears to have been available in the CD format. However, a series of new CDs have recently appeared with “los cincos caballeros,” “ritmos de brazil”, etc. featuring tracks that, as far as I can ascertain (I am not an Aleman specialist), have not previously appeared on CD. has them all.

Lloyd Loar Site

October 2, 2007

Nicolai Foss

To anyone interested in archtops, Lloyd Loar is a towering figure because of his design of the Gibson L5, the introduction of f-holes on guitars and mandolins (and other instruments in the mandolin family), changing the position of the guitar’s bridge, neck and fingerboard relative to earlier designs, etc. Here is an elaborate tribute that, however, mainly focuses on the mandolin side of his innovations.

Les Paul and the Log

September 18, 2007

Nicolai Foss

“The Log” is the famous prototype constructed by Les Paul from a 4” by 4” fence post and an Epi archtop. Effectively the first solid body guitar, and the main reason why Les was inducted into The National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio. Here is Les playing, but I cannot see whether he is actually playing The Log or whether it is an un-amputated Epi.

Snoozer Quinn

August 23, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Here are some takes with the mysterious Snoozer Quinn (1906-1952), recorded when Snoozer was fatally ill and hospitalized. His style is rough (even accounting for the bad recording), and sort of pre-Langean.