A few months ago, Guitar World published its list of the 40 most influential guitarists since the magazine’s founding in 1980. The list included most every heavy metal and hair band guitarist, all the big time speed shredders, as well as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eddie Van Halen, Edge and Prince. But tucked in there were two jazz guitarists, Stanley Jordan and Emily Remler.
I had the incredible experience of seeing Jordan perform when he was still a teenager in the 1970’s, several years before he was signed by Blue Note Records. His first album for Blue Note, 1985’s Magic Touch, spent 51 weeks at #1 on the Billboard jazz chart. Jordan is known for his two-hand tapping technique, really unique to him and unlike the Michael Hedges inspired style featured in my recent post on Acoustic Guitar Innovators.
Here is concert footage from 1987, a couple of years after the release of Magic Touch. Watch as long as you like.
And here is a more recent performance of “Over the Rainbow”.
The same year Stanley Jordan released his breakthrough album, Emily Remler was voted Guitarist of the Year in Down Beat magazine. She was 28 at that time. She would die of heart failure only few years later at the age of 32 while on tour in Australia.
Remler’s style was classic jazz, and in this clip she plays a piece called “Blues for Herb” she wrote for jazz legend Herb Ellis. Classic as her playing was, you jazz buffs will note that her choice of an Ovation guitar for this performance was decidedly non-traditional!
And here she is playing a bossa nova standard, “How Insensitive”, by Antônio Carlos Jobim. The notes in the YouTube comment thread for this video indicate that this performance was one of her very last. She makes that right hand work look so effortless.
Modern jazz lost one of its greats a few days ago. Take some time to search the web to read about pianist Chick Corea’s amazing, 60-year career. Like all jazz greats, Corea collaborated with many, many fellow artists, and in his case a who’s who of the genre. Below are just a few – and I’m leaving out his jazz fusion defining work with Miles Davis!
One of his earliest collaborations was on Stan Getz’s 1967 album, Sweet Rain. The album represented a move in a modern jazz direction for Getz following years of bossa nova innovations. Corea not only played on the album, but wrote two of the tracks, including “Windows”. Here are Getz and Corea performing that song live in 1972, featuring bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Tony Williams.
In that same year of 1972, Chick formed the band Return to Forever with Stanley and others. They recorded two albums that year, the second of which featured “Spain”, perhaps Corea’s best known composition. Here is a live performance of the song from 1975 featuring several of that year’s DownBeat magazine’s best jazz musician poll winners. OMG. Stanley Clarke, George Benson on guitar, Hubert Laws on flute, Lenny White on drums, and listen to what Bill Waltrous can do on a trombone (2:40)! (you may have to do a “double click” to get to this video, but it’s worth it).
Chick’s collaborations with vibes master Gary Burton spanned over 40 years. Their first album together was 1973’s Crystal Silence, and their last was 2012’s Hot House (see this post from a few years ago). Here’s an intimate two-song set from the NPR Tiny Desk Concert series, starting with “Love Castle” from their 2008 collaboration The New Crystal Silence, and the title track from the original Crystal Silence.
My last post was about Elton John’s Jewel Box collection due out in two weeks, but this past Friday Joni Mitchell beat him to the market with a 5-disk box set of her own. Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967) features her very earliest recordings and wraps up before the release of her first album, 1968’s Song to a Seagull.
Rolling Stone has a nice article on the box set that links to an August 1965 recording of Joni’s first original composition, “Day After Day”. Joni had been singing folk songs in cafes in her native Calgary, and this song, her vocals and guitar playing sound very much born out of that background.
Less than two years later, in March 1967, Joni recorded this performance of “Both Sides Now”. It was not long after Mitchell had written the song and about the same time Judy Collins released her Grammy Award winning version. Witness Mitchell’s rapid evolution as a writer, lyricist, singer, and musician with a unique style as you compare this performance to “Day After Day”.
Apologies to Joni for bringing up Elton John twice in her post, but since announcing his Jewel Box collection, Sir Elton put out a really special recording not included in that set. “Come Down in Time” from Tumbleweed Connection, an album celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is a personal favorite. This jazz version apparently was recorded before the album version, and it features an extended jazz improvisation.
The documentary Anacostia Delta: The Legacy of DC’s TeleMasters will be released this coming Friday. If you love the electric guitar, get this movie. If you want to see electric guitar played as good as it can be played, get this movie.
Anacostia Delta will clue you in to the careers of the late Danny Gatton, one of his major influences, the late Roy Buchanan, and DC’s rich guitar scene that extends to this very day.
Read my 2013 post on Gatton to see some of his virtuosity. The best there ever was. And enjoy this solo jam pulled from the 1971 documentary Introducing Roy Buchanan, a movie that helped take his career to the next level.
In addition to historical clips, Anacostia Delta is anchored in footage from a 2015 concert at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia (I was there). Here’s a bootleg of a full line up of DC guitar legends playing the jazz standard, “How High the Moon“.
If you want to kick back for awhile and hear more incredible guitar playing, check out this 1993 show featuring Gatton, Albert Lee and Vince Gill. Lee and Gill are two more of the best guitarists ever to walk the planet.
In December 2019 the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz held its International Guitar Competition in Washington D.C. The Institute, named for Thelonious Monk until this past year, has held competitions going back to 1987 honoring young singers and musicians. This year’s winner was 30-year old Russian phenom Evgeny Pobozhiy.
A few years ago Evgeny recorded this performance of his composition “the Aether”. Joining him were two fellow Russian jazz artists and Italian bassist Federico Malaman.
In this more recent recording of his composition “Calumet”, Evgeny starts to show off his chops at about 2:00. Later in the track you’ll hear a sax solo by Brandon Fields, a session man who’s played with dozens of stars from Ray Charles to Stanley Clarke to Earth Wind and Fire.
In this video we add another young jazz powerhouse, 24-year old bassist Mohini Dey from Mumbai Oh my goodness. Rolling Stone wrote Mohini up as an artist to watch in 2012 when she was 15.
And check out this amazing duet with the aforementioned Federico Malaman.