Archive for the 'The best CDs' Category

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??

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Susie Arioli Swing Band Feat. Jordan Officer

September 29, 2007

Nicolai Foss

I had never heard of the the Susie Arioli (Swing) Band when I borrowed their 2001 CD, Pennies From Heaven, last week. Listening to it has been a delightful experience. Arioli has a very good voice, the great late stride pianist Ralph Sutton is featured on a couple of tracks, and the solo voice on guitar, young Jordan Officer (25 when the CD was recorded), plays brilliantly, reminiscent of George Barnes or Bucky Pizzarelli’s approach to single-string playing (he can also a hefty blues guitar). He is pictured with a pick-up-less Gibson L7C, but it sounds as if he adds a Dearmond pickup for his playing. The rhythm guitar backup is excellent (as is the occassional acoustic solo). If you are into light intimate swing, the hot club style, and early jazz in general, this record is very highly recommended!

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.

Jim Hall’s Complete Jazz Guitar

May 9, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Although my main preference in jazz guitar is towards energetic and muscular bebop (think Tal Farlow, Hank Garland, George Benson, Pat Martino, and Jimmy Bruno) I have a growing admiration and appreciation for the softer approach of Jim Hall (some may say that I am maturing). Some of his stuff, I just don’t get (such as this project). However, he is no doubt a musician of the very highest caliber. I am listening at the moment to his trio record with Carl Perkins and Red Mitchell (also includes a number of stunningly beautiful takes with John Lewis) from 1957, Complete Jazz Guitar (“Complete” because more tracks are included than in “Jazz Guitar” original)

The record is absolutely outstanding. Although the Hall style is clearly there already at 1957, he sounds at times remarkably like two guitarists that were his friends at the time, namely Tal Farlow and particularly Jimmy Raney. I didn’t know that Hall could play the blues that well. And his sound. The most woody sound in jazz guitar (and more woody than the contemporary Hall sound). Strange to believe that an ES-175 with a P90 can produce this sound, but apparently it can. A great, great CD.

More Lists of Favorite Jazz Guitar Recordings

May 5, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Here is Jazz 100’s list.

Here are the Top 5 according to About: guitar.

And here is The Best Jazz Guitar for Rock and Pop Fans.

UPDATE: Here is “So you’d like to …listen to Incredible Jazz Guitar

Green Street

April 12, 2007

Nicolai Foss

As I am writing this I am listening to Grant Green’s Green Street. The two CDs that are often singled out as Grant’s best are Solid and Matador. While the sidemen are impressive, I don’t think these two CDs represent Grant’s best work. I much prefer the quartet sessions with Sonny Clark and Green Street. The latter was recorded for Blue Note in 1961, using the guitar-bass-drums format. I think (but I may be wrong here) that the only other album that Grant cut with this format was Standards, another 1961 session. Standards, though by no means bad, is a somewhat sleepy and uninspired affair, if compared to Green Street . In particular, “No.1 Green Street” cooks, and “‘Round About Midnight” is one of the most beautiful versions of that tune ever cut.

Great Boxsets

April 10, 2007

Nicolai Foss

There are now a number of great jazz guitar box sets. I highly recommend these:

Hittin’ on All Six. This begins with Lonnie Johnson and ends with Jimmy Raney. Lots of great and rare tracks with the likes of Dave Barbour, Billy Mackel, Mary Osborne, Bus Etri, Bernard Addison, and other largely forgotten but excellent players, plus tracks with much better known players such as George Barnes and Barney Kessel, in addition to the major innovators, Lang, Reinhardt and Christian.

Charlie Christian: The Genius of the Electric Guitar. Indispensable!!

Jimmy Raney — Woody Herman’s Cool Guitar Player. Apparently, the German producers of this 4-cd set think that Raney needs to be advertised by means of the association with Herman. Well, perhaps, but for jazz guitar afficionados Raney is one of the greatest. This fourfer features lots of wonderful “cool” material from the 1950s — and at a ridicuolously low price.

The Complete Verve Tal Farlow Sessions. In a booklet that accompanies this set, Howard Alden argues that these sessions, with the main bulk of Tal’s recorded output from the 1950s, are the “Holy Grail of Jazz Guitar.” Amen!

Tal Farlow: The Fastest Guitar Play of His Era. If you think that the price of the above Tal collection is too much to stomach, try this fourfer (by the same producers as the Raney fourfer — and with an equally ridiculous subtitle; but who cares at that price?).

Tiny Grimes

April 4, 2007

| Nicolai Foss |

I have been listening quite a bit to Tiny Grimes lately, particularly Callin’ the Blues and Tiny Grimes, 1944-1949. Grimes seems to be a rather under-rated player. He may be best known as one of the inventors of rock’n’roll (the rock’n’roll element is very much present on Callin’ the Blues) — which may be sufficient ground for many jazz buffs to disregard or even dismiss him.

Grimes performed on an electric tenor archtop with a bouncing robust style that owed more to Charlie Christian than to anyone else. He was, however, perhaps even more rhytmically direct than Christian and his tone was more distorted. His playing is the link between Christian and more contemporary players like Billy Butler, and, perhaps, Chris Flory and Duke Robillard. If you don’t know Tiny’s work, I strongly recommend the above two CDs (the latter also contains the classic four cuts with Charlie Parker).

UPDATE: Here is the only YouTube clip with Tiny.

Amazon Jazz Guitar Lists

March 27, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Frequent users of Amazon.com will know of the “listmania” feature. This is Amazon users flagging their book and music preferences. And, yes, there are (at least) five very nice such lists on jazz guitar. My own list — which I will post later — overlaps quite a lot with this one.

UPDATE: Here is a nice list on Essential Early Jazz Guitar.