Good Guitarists

Aug 06, 2020
I was going to write this week's post about Charles Mingus. I tend to forget that in this digital age I can go listen to nearly anything ever recorded by anyone I ever liked listening to. For decades now there's been one Mingus record in my collection, and it was pretty much was the Mingus record as far as I was concerned. But about a week and a half ago, in the middle of the night, I finally thought to go look up what other records he made around the same time. I quickly discovered there were at least three or four other albums I was probably going to love as much as Mingus Ah Um, classic though it might be. I expect I'll talk about more about Mingus at some point, but to paraphrase Bruce Willis' character in Bandits, "Well...we are guitar players..." So it would probably behoove me to at least talk about guitar music once in a while.

I realized the other day, even within the already highly-rarefied world of fingerstyle guitar, there are huge swaths of that world I don't spend much time listening to, thinking about or discussing. As I do with jazz, when I look for more music to check out, I'm mostly just trying to fill in the gaps, reaching for any and all the things I reckon I missed along the way –  people I heard about but didn't hear, or music I listened to without understanding at the time.

So for this week, I've made a playlist of just guitar players. It's somewhat slanted towards fingerstyle and the blues, but in thinking about the records and artists I found personally formative, I wound up including other things as well. Herb Ellis isn't someone I ever thought of as a particular influence, but I loved the feel of the Oscar Peterson Trio's "Bluesology Groove" so much, I heard a lot of Ellis along the way (my favorite Herb Ellis is on a Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster LP that has yet to surface on Spotify). I couldn't find Merle Travis records early on, except on a Guitar Player/Rhino collection of "Legends of Country Guitar," but I would have loved "Black Diamond Blues" if I'd heard it at as a teenager. Likewise some of Bill Frisell's things, though probably not all of them, which says more about me than Frisell, I'm sure. And while I went through a Ralph Towner phase early on, looking back, I think maybe I wanted to like it more than I really did. Finally, I would have loved to include something from Emily Remler's Transitions, but there's surprisingly little of her work on Spotify. Check out the title cut on Youtube to hear her effortless synthesis of idiomatic guitar playing and deep jazz sensibilities.

A playlist like this could go on and on, but hopefully the rest of what's here speaks for itself. You can find it at the link below:

Good Guitarists

More soon,