The Who’s Who of Jazz Guitar and YOUR Favorite Players
Want to learn about jazz guitar greats? This page hosts several articles I wrote about some of the top rated, most popular, historically significant, world class jazz guitarists. Each page contains must-know information about the players. The individual pages also depict each guitarist’s playing style along with some licks, videos and transcriptions. All compiled by yours truly, of course!
As you may understand, I always avoid digging too much into the “personal life stuff” in the biographical part of each of the jazz guitar greats page. You’ll agree that the music is what matters most here…
*NEW*: You are now invited to discuss YOUR favorite all-star players. I surely missed some jazz guitar greats of legendary importance (there are so many …) on this website, so please share your thoughts (and post your own “jazz guitar fantasy” lineup). See the comment section at the bottom of the page…
Jazz Guitar Greats
(appearring in reversed chronological order)
Wayne Krantz (1964-)
Krantz is known to make very much music with little material. His highly idiosyncratic sound has emerged from a very regimented practice routine with strict self-imposed limits. This led him to play with Steely Dan, Brecker Brothers and David Binney…
Strengths: a unique personality, rhythmic precision, knows “jazz” but prefers a grainy strat sound, compositions.
Ben Monder (1962-)
A genuine jazz guitar innovator, Ben Monder is a “beautiful freak” gaining influence (and lots of fans!) from his highly personal approach and sound.
Strengths: broad tonal palette, HUGE hands (unusual voicings because of stretches), R-H technique, intellectual compositions.
Pat Metheny (1954-)
One of the most influential jazz guitarist or the last 30 years. Metheny’s approach to composing and playing the guitar is unique.
Strengths: great sound, virtuosity, use of guitar-synth, jazz composition and arrangements (for the “Pat Metheny Group” and other projects.)
Vic Juris (1953-)
A great, modern and sensitive guitar improviser. He’s been part of David Liebman’s group for almost 20 years.
Strengths: Accompaniment, voicings, rubato-like lines, creative approach to anything he touches!
John Scofield (1951-)
One of the most distinctive voice in the jazz guitar field ever. Scofield’s harsh jazz-rock sound is instantly recognizable.
Strengths: unique “harsh” sound, never-hear-before improvised lines, outstanding articulation, composition, groove/funk playing.
Pat Martino (1944-)
An instigator of the “modern sound” in jazz guitar. Martino combines technicalprowess and beautiful, post-bop jazz music.
Strengths: great time feel, lyricism, virtuosity, amazing “machine-gun” like lines (that never get boring!), melodic inventiveness.
George Benson (1943-)
Benson is the perfect blend between a heavy bop guitarist and a soul-jazz singer. He’s been entertaining crowds for decades!
Strengths: soul singing, groove, lots of chops!, charisma, great simultaneous scat-singing while improvising on the guitar.
Lenny Breau (1941-1984)
One of the greatest “chordal” guitarists, Lenny Breau was a true master of harmony on the guitar. Sadly, he’s not very well known.
Strengths: chords and chord melody style of playing, solo performances, harmonics, improvisations, flamenco and classical chops (fingerstyle).
Grant Green (1935-1979)
Great underestimated jazz guitarist. Well known for his soul and jazz albums on Blue Note.
Strengths: Great feel, bluesiness, outstanding use of the bebop vocabulary, funkiness (later in his life).
Ed Bickert (1932-)
Great Canadian Jazz Guitarist. Unprecedented mastery and taste on the guitar. You have to hear him to believe it…
Strengths: harmony, improvised lines, comping with “pick and fingers”
Kenny Burrell (1931-)
A tasteful, bluesy player hailing from Detroit, Michigan. Now director of the jazz program at UCLA.
Strengths: soulfulness, chordal passages, double-stops (in 6ths for instance), bebop lines, inspired by the great Charlie Christian.
Jim Hall (1930-2013)
Probably the most influential of all the jazz guitar greats. His minimalistic approach resonates with everyone… and had an impact on today’s big names (Sco, Metheny, Frisell et al.)
Strengths: highly individual voice and style, less-is-more approach and the use of space, impressive in all settings (duo to big band), ultra modern yet traditional notes and rhythms choices.
Joe Pass (1929-1994)
One of the greatest jazz guitar greats! Widely recognized as THE solo jazz guitarist of his time.
Strengths: solo recitals (!), harmonic concept (chords and counterpoint), walking bass lines, chord melody arrangements, bebop improvisation.
Jimmy Raney (1927-1995)
A rather underrated jazz guitar master. Raney is amongst my favorite for his great ideas and smooth yet interesting phrasing.
Strengths: Clear melodic ideas, phrasing and displacements, nice countours and creativity within the harmonic boundaries.
Wes Montgomery (1923-1968)
One of my personal favorites of all time! Wes is respected and admired by guitarists of many styles throughout the world.
Strengths: Melodic inventiveness, soulfulness, deep groove, the use of octaves, personal sound (plucking strictly with the right-hand thumb).
Herb Ellis (1921-2010)
A great, sensitive swinging bebop guitarist, Herb played in the most significant guitar-piano-bass trio of all times. (with the great Oscar Peterson).
Strengths: bebop improvisations, swinging hard(!), comping.
Tal Farlow (1921-1998)
One of the great pioneers of bebop guitar, Tal had a unique approach and sound to playing.
Strengths: Ultra-fast lines, unusual chord voicings, chord melody, artificial harmonics to play entire melodies.
Charlie Christian (1916-1942)
The father of jazz lines on the guitar: he played genuine bebop (imitating the horns). Also the first established of the jazz guitar greats to use amplification.
Strengths: “Horn-like” chromatic lines, flowing melodic improvisations, bluesy, rhythmic repetition and motif development.
Django Reinhardt (1910-1953)
The greatest gypsy-jazz guitarist of all time. He is the most renowned European jazz legend in history! His band was the first established jazz ensemble using only string instruments.
Strengths: Impeccable melodic lines on acoustic guitar, virtuosity (with only two fingers!), lyricism, “poum tchak” style of comping … perhaps the most unique of all jazz guitar greats!
YOUR jazz heroes: discuss your favorite jazz guitarists (or non-guitar jazz legends)
Share your thoughts about your personal heroes! Add your own Jazz Guitar Great article or comment on the other legends above. Of course, you can also discuss other legendary players, even if they didn’t play guitar. Please talk about your favorite saxophonists, trumpeters, pianists, drummers, bassists, etc.