12 Jazz Guitar Albums You Should Hear
August 9, 2016
By Rusty Aceves
The legacy of the guitar in jazz is rich and extensive, with notable artists hailing from all corners of the globe and all eras of jazz history. From jazz guitar pioneer Eddie Lang, the acoustic gypsy jazz of France’s Django Reinhardt and big band great Freddie Green to the post-bop giants Jim Hall, Grant Green and Kenny Burrell, fusion chameleons Pat Metheny and John Scofield, and genre bender Bill Frisell, guitar players have long been some of the music’s most revolutionary figures. The guitarists of today continue to shape the evolution of the art form, always expanding the music and confounding expectations. With the Opening Week of Season 5 featuring two leading voices of the guitar from two different generations—Pat Metheny and Julian Lage—we take a look at some of the great jazz guitar albums.
This is in no way a comprehensive list, or one represents the “best guitar albums of all time,” but rather, is intended to highlight some pivotal recordings and showcase the diverse range of jazz guitar expression, from jazz’s origins to today.
Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery (1960)
A landmark recording that influenced legions of guitarists to follow. This is a superb introduction to the genius of Wes Montgomery.
Verve Jazz Masters 38 (1933-1953)
This collection spanning the career of the jazz manouche innovator is essential listening for all guitarists and jazz fans.
Bright Size Life (1976)
The album that introduced a modern master and his enduring theme song, featuring an early appearance by bass legend Jaco Pastorius.
A departure from his spectacular quartet album The Next Step, Heartcore expands Rosenwinkel’s deep vision, incorporating electronica and global influences.
Genius of the Electric Guitar (1939-1941)
This compilation collects many of the bebop icon’s memorable moments with the Benny Goodman Sextet and Orchestra, prior to the guitarist’s death at age 25.
A document of the superlative post bop guitarist’s prime period, featuring a spectacular band including McCoy Tyner, Bob Cranshaw, and Elvin Jones.
Ask The Ages (1991)
An intense, incendiary end to the under-appreciated guitarist’s career, on which Sharrock’s organ-like guitar is matched by Pharoah Sanders’ fiery saxophone playing.
Beyond the Blue Horizon (1971)
The guitar star went on to huge pop crossover success in the mid-70s, but this session, his debut for CTI Records, is a soul jazz masterpiece.
The modern guitar giant’s telepathic trio with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewart never sounded better than on this live date recorded at NYC’s Blue Note.
The virtuosic avant-garde guitarist’s singular approach is well documented on this session, which is deep, unfathomable, enveloping, and cinematically evocative.
The Intercontinentals (2005)
A standout session by this guitar hero and former SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director boasts intoxicating grooves and an excellent international band.
Alone Together (1972)
One of the great influential guitar stylists, Hall joins bassist Ron Carter for this enchanting duet release.