12 Jazz Guitar Albums You Should Hear

On The Corner Masthead


July 6, 2020 | by Rusty Aceves

Grant Green

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.

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.

Wes Montgomery
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.

Django Reinhardt
The Best of Django Reinhardt
This collection spanning the career of the jazz manouche innovator is essential listening for all guitarists and jazz fans.

Pat Metheny
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. Here is a 2002 performance of the title track featuring bass virtuoso Richard Bona and current Pat Metheny drummer Antonio Sánchez.

Kurt Rosenwinkel
Heartcore (2003)
A departure from his spectacular quartet album The Next Step, Heartcore expands Rosenwinkel’s deep vision, incorporating electronica and global influences.

Charlie Christian
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.

Grant Green
Matador (1964)
A document of the superlative post bop guitarist’s prime period, featuring a spectacular band including McCoy Tyner, Bob Cranshaw, and Elvin Jones.

Sonny Sharrock
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.

George Benson
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.

John Scofield
EnRoute (2004)
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.

Ben Monder
Oceana (2005)
The virtuosic avant-garde guitarist’s singular approach is well documented on this session, which is deep, unfathomable, enveloping, and cinematically evocative.

Bill Frisell
The Intercontinentals (2005)
A standout session by this guitar hero and former SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director boasts intoxicating grooves and an excellent international band.

Jim Hall
Alone Together (1972)
One of the great influential guitar stylists, Hall joins bassist Ron Carter for this enchanting duet release. 

Originally posted August 9, 2016