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Jazz guitar

Jazz guitar refers to the use of guitar in jazz music.

The guitar has a long and honorable history in jazz. Historically, the guitar played the same role in jazz as in country music, blues and other forms of folk music, as an instrument easy to acquire financially and easy (enough) to play for an individual performer.

As an instrument in an ensemble, however, the guitar had first to supplant the banjo as the standard "string tenor" rhythm instrument. Even as late as the early 30s such sophisticated orchestras as Duke Ellington's still used a banjo. In the late 30s, however, there were four important developments, or, more accurately, four important individuals:

  • Freddie Green[?] -- In the Count Basie Orchestra out of Kansas City, Missouri, Green was a peerless rhythm guitarist, whose reliable pulse propelled the hardest swinging band in jazz. Green's ascendency pretty much ended the banjo era. Green rarely soloed, even in the modern era, but he remains the apotheosis of the rhythm guitar and the master of chorded accompaniment.
  • Lonnie Johnson[?], a New Orleans born guitarist, who was the first to play single-string guitar solos. Although best known as a bluesman, Johnson played all forms of music. He had developed his single-string playing while working as a strolling musician in restaurants, accompanying himself as he sang. Although he never achieved great fame, he was a strong influence on the next two guitarists discusssed here.
  • Charlie Christian -- Also out of the southwest, from Texas, Christian showed up in the Benny Goodman Orchestra unexpected by anyone with a full-blown style of electric guitar soloing. In addition to his appearances with Goodman, Christian was a regular after-hours bebop player. The astonished critics of the time called it "single-string" playing because no big-band guitarist before Christian did it (although blues players played single-string obligattos). Now virtually all guitarists do it, country, rock, jazz, nu-metal, you name it. Christian's career only lasted a few years and he died young, but his innovation changed the guitar forever.
  • Django Reinhardt, one-of-a-kind jazz guitarist, a Belgian Gypsy with limited movement in his hand due to a fire in a gypsy caravan. He took up guitar playing as physical therapy. Reinhardt recorded rarely with a standard jazz group, and recorded most often with either solo or with the peculiar Quintet of the Hot Club of France[?] with violinist Stephan Grapelli[?]. Influential for technique, taste, harmonies, and melodies, with many followers and not a single successor.

Other notable jazz guitarists



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