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Rolling Stone India’s Jazz Playlist

Hear tunes by guitar mavericks

Sunil Sampat May 21, 2019

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The guitar has become an important instrument for popular music in the last few decades. Rock music has created a special place for the guitar with all the possibilities that electrons have brought to the sound. Folk and country always used the guitar for accompaniment to the voice.

The guitar in jazz has a special place too. The acoustic guitar, for the most part has been the instrument of choice among jazz guitarists, although the electric guitar which was probably created by a jazz musician, Charlie Christian as early as the 1940s, took a long time to enter mainstream jazz. Some extraordinary guitarists have adorned the jazz scene and this week we look at some fabulous recordings from these artists.

“Guitar Blues Odyssey: From Roots to Fruits” – Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones is many musicians rolled into one but he is not a guitarist! So what is he doing here on top of this playlist? He’s put together and arranged this piece for the evolution of the guitar in jazz. It is a fascinating introduction in a few minutes to the role in jazz of the guitar. Using an orchestral background, Jones has invited guitarists Eric Gayle, Toots Thielmans (who also plays harmonica), Jim Hall and Joe Beck. Jones has made an eloquent statement here.

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“Lady Be Good”– Kenny Burrell At The Five Spot Cafe

This is a beautiful piece from a fairly rare album, at least in the collection of musicians playing here. Brilliant pianist Bobby Timmons, tenor saxophonist Tina Brooks, Ben Tucker on bass and Art Blakey are all heard on this recording. Not too much is available from Brooks but he sounds very soulful here. Burrell is absolutely at his best.

“Unit 7” – Wes Montgomery & Wynton Kelly

Wes Montgomery teams up here with his musical soul mate, pianist Wynton Kelly. Kelly was newly out of Miles Davis’ album Kind of Blue and has in this recording his colleagues from the Miles band — Paul Chambers on bass and ‘Philly’ Joe Jones on drums. Pay attention to the musical chemistry between Montgomery and Kelly. Very sadly, both died in their Forties with a lot of great music still left to be played.

“Nagasaki” — Barney Kessell

Barney Kessel is a guitarist who was as comfortable playing bebop as he was playing lyrical ballads. He was part of Oscar Peterson‘s Trio along with Ray Brown on bass, the band dispensing with a drummer. This was a very popular trio in the Fifties but Kessell moved on to make amazing recordings with his own bands. “Nagasaki” is, of course a tribute to the Japanese city devastated by a nuclear bomb which ended World War II. Note the clarity of notes played on Kessel’s guitar.

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“Desafinado” — Charlie Byrd & Stan Getz

There are some jazz recordings which have become engraved in the minds of ardent followers. They are perfect in every way and we can safely say that this original of “Desafinado” in the jazz samba setting is one of them. Stan Getz dazzled the jazz community in the early Sixties with his jazz samba concept. Here, Charlie Byrd is at his fluent best on guitar in a band that includes two bassists and two drummers!

We shall continue to explore the jazz guitar next week as well. There is far too much wonderful jazz guitar music to put in just one column.

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