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). Please do so here...
Jazz guitar history is an amazing learning tool. "Learn from the masters and burn like one!" Enjoy.
(appear 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 technical prowess 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"
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!
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.
Click on the links below to read Jazz Guitar Greats articles and comments that were all written by visitors to this page.
You can write or comment on them, too. Just scroll up a bit and write your own story. Or continue on and read what others have had to say about their personal jazz heroes. Enjoy...
and don't forget Emily Remler as a female jazz guitar player :-)
Johnny Smith, McLaughlin, Bruno, Stern etc. all missing?
The most conspicuous missing jazz legends by their absence, are: Johnny Smith (an egregious omission) John McLauglin (equally egregious) Mike Stern …
Barney Kessel....Kurt Rosenwinkel, Peter Bernstein
Hi, You made a wonderful job: Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt Jim Hall, Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Raney...all real masters (I love them all, but I listened …
My favorite: Abercrombie
John Abercrombie - The highest level of guitar playing. No licks no patterns but pure soul. --- M-A's Comments: You're absolutely right, John's …
Jim Hall, George Benson, Wes montgomery, Joe Pass
Guitarists: jim hall's my favorite, his playing is just so thoughtful and pretty. Benson just has some great bluesy, funky, jazzy solos and his music …
Armstrong, Basie, Parker, Coltrane, T. Monk, Bill Evans, Nat Cole! Paul Desmond. Kessel, Farlow, Byrd, Bruno, Almeda, Barnes, Pepe Romero, Benson (when …
Certainly, Jimmy Bruno deserves to be on this list. One of the Philadelphia school of great jazz guitarists, Jimmy has been one of the leading jazz guitarists …
Great list, but where's John McLaughlin?!?
A few comments. 1) Definitely need to add John McLaughlin. His stuff with Miles (Bitches Brew, Tribute to Jack Johnson, etc.) is classic. Mahavishnu …
A Vote for Larry Carlton
I wholeheartedly agree with your inclusion of George Benson in this list; after all, Chet Atkins himself described GB as "the best jazz guitarist" he'd …
Missing so many jazz guitar greats?
As inexplicable as inexcusable are the omissions of the likes of Barney Kessel, George Barnes, Kenny Burrell, George Van Epps, Carl Kress, Howard Roberts, …
My top hero: Pat Martino
I've been playing since my 8th living year, first classical, with 13 years jazz - with 15 in a band - heared a lot jazz guitarists in this time, and one …
My three heroes: Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass and Luis Salinas
No doubt, Wes was the king of sweet jazzy lines. Infinite creativity. It is just inspiring. From Joe I admired how he could improvise with lines and …
Another Jazz Guitarist Great - Earl Klugh
I heard Earl Klugh perform in the early 80's and purchasing his "Collaborations" Album with George Benson, I was sold. Since, I have desired to learn …
Peter Bernstein, my all-time favourite!
Wow!!! No mention about Pete Bernstein?! This guy could be described as a jazzman who happens to play the guitar. A gentlemen, and what a touch on the …
My God. I follow Kenny Burrell, Chet, and many, many more. I had not heard of Lenny Breau before. Shame on me for not following fellow Canadians. He …
My Top Three Heroes - Johnny, Wes and John
Johnny Smith embodies the entire intellectual concept of modern Jazz guitar demonstrated by his amazingly precise articulation, melodic swinging lines …
Johnny Smith, Django, Les Paul
If you likewise fast runs, the best tone, and some of the best Jazz Guitar you will ever hear...these Good Men will show you the way...
Pat Martino is incredible; i love his fast way to play and the sound of his guitar.
Page Hamilton, Whit Smith, Freddie Green...
Along with the many well known players (Django, Kessell, Christian, etc.) these are influences for me. Page Hamilton - Founder of my favorite hard rock …
One my favourite jazz players
John Abercrombie (1944-) A great, sensitive jazz guitarist, impressive in all settings and all kind of jazz I've heard of him. -- M-A's Comments : …
He is the greatest ever with lightening speed and perfect timing...just incredible.
My hero is John Mclaughlin
He is most experimental jazz fusion musician over all categories, specially ethno jazz within different culture. -- M-A Comments : Agreed. Page …
ok more guys
Barney Kessel Charlie Byrd you gotta have them
And... where is Kenny Burrell
Sorry forgot to mention Kenny Burrell, he is just a bluesy jazz player, his sound is very warm and has plenty of great records that should include him …
Rosenwinkel on modern jazz guitar
I think Kurt Rosenwinkel should be included on the list. The guy is so versatile, he can even play a record with sequenced beats and still sound jazzy. …
"My Top 3 Heroes - Ritenour, Martino and Bruno"
Hello, I'm a rookie jazz guitarist. I'm a semi-pro. I have bed room studio in my room. I trying to learn and practice a lot of jazz guitar and recording …