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Jazz Guitar Recommended Listening

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A list of amazing jazz records you should know!

The last few weeks I have noticed a lot of people that are not keen on jazz, or have some kind of strange stereotype feelings about it - they think of tuba and old men playing too many notes... but they got it all wrong :)

And also if you do want to study jazz then one of the most essential things you should do is LISTEN to it.

When I was in my teens I drove a few hours to go and have a lesson with a guy who knew a lot about jazz, a sax player, and when I got there he asked about what I wanted to learn. At the time I had been playing in rock and blues bands for many years, I knew all my scales and arpeggios and stuff, but it just never sounded like jazz. The teacher asked me what my favourite Bird (Charlie Parker) album was. I didn't have any, so I couldn't say. He asked what my favourite George Benson album was, and I didn't have any of that either. Actually, I didn't really have any jazz albums. The guy laughed until there were tears in his eyes. He told me to go buy some records and listen to them.

How can you play jazz if you don't know what it's supposed to sound like?

Seems very obvious now, but at the time it was a revelation, which is why I'm sharing this with you...

So listed here are a bunch of jazz albums I really think are worth listening to, and why...

 

1. Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue
You just Gotta have it. This one is essential listening if you wanna play jazz. No question. It's the biggest selling jazz album of all time. Laid back, beautiful, relaxing. This album was improvised, there is a book about the making of it, couple of takes of each tune and that was it. Incredible musicians. My favourite album of all time. 
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2. Wes Montgomery - The Incredible Guitar Of Wes Montgomery
Wes is the shizzle. I don't think there was ever a better jazz guitar player. He was certainly one of the most influential guitarists in jazz, and this record is killer. There are some ballads, some up tempo stuff, but it's all melodic stuff. It really is incredible guitar playing!!
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3. Sonny Rollins - The Bridge
This is a slightly more outside album than Kinda Blue, but relaxing for the most part and some beautiful playing on it. On guitar is Jim Hall who plays amazing. Not full of technical stuff, beautiful melodies, wonderful interplay between the musicians. A wonderful album, probably my personal favourite jazz album.
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4. Joe Pass - Virtuoso
This is a solo guitar album. One guy, one guitar and oceans of talent. He learned from a very early age and was a natural player, he plays chords, melody and bass lines at the same time without dropping a beat, and it's all improvised. My personal favourite is an album called "Live At Elder Hall" but it's no longer available. The recording is pretty raw, and it's an intense album, lots of notes, but still a melody based album.
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5. George Benson - Breezin
Real jazzers would poo-poo my choice with this album, and it's true that an album like "The George Benson Cookbook" is more jazzy, but this one is the one that turned me onto Benson. He sings amazing, he plays amazing, he writes amazing. His technique is just jaw dropping, but it's real pure melody, he sings along even with the real fast stuff. 
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6. John Coltrane - Giant Steps
This is probably more like a stereotype jazz album, but an incredible one! The opening track is a really hard one to play, the changes are real tricky and these cats blow (improvise) over them like they are playing a blues. It's full of very fast sax lines, no guitar here, but it's essential listening for any self respecting jazzer. Not for the jazz beginner though.
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7. Django Reinhardt - Djangology
It's a shame that most people know him only cos he played with two fingers (after a caravan fire) but this guy plays the best Gypsy swing jazz you'll ever hear. It sounds old school, because it is! Most of the recordings are a bit crackly, but his sound is really on, bright and tight! And the lines (solos) he plays have been stolen by pretty much every jazz guitarist since... many of the most common jazz lines come from him!
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8. Martin Taylor - Artistry
For solo guitar there are only a few cats that really cook it up good. Martin Taylor does a more sophisticated thing than Joe Pass, but similar in that he plays chords, bass lines and melody all at once. His version of I Got Rhythm still drops my jaw every time (one day I will learn to play it). He's a beautiful player, much more composed (worked out) than Joe Pass, but it works and is well worth the time it takes to transcribe! 
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9. Pat Martino - Consciousness
I love how Pat plays these long continuous 8th note runs that are so smooth and effortless, and FAST. It can get a bit relentless sometimes, and it gets a bit out sometimes, but as a guitar album, it's awesome. The first song is Impressions (same easy changes as Miles Davis' So What) so it's a great one to transcribe and steal licks from :) I can only find it on import, bit expensive, but I'd still buy it!!
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10. John Scofield - This Meets That
There are few jazz guitar players with very little obvious vocabulary from the past masters, and though Sco is certainly a jazzer, his lines approach and style are his own. I love it, kinda angular but still melodic, really sounds to me like he's giving it his all, really expressing himself, it's not a technical exercise. His version of House Of The Rising Sun on this album is awesome.
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Well I hope that gives you a good starting point, it's certainly not a complete list, but just a place to start, albums I think are pretty essential listening. I'd be very surprised if you didn't like some at least!!

Will add some more another time!

 

Lesson ID: JA-101