The Greatest Jazz Guitar Albums

Jazz guitar, for some inexplicable reason, seems sometimes to lack the attention that it deserves.It may stem from the fact that back in the Big Band era the guitar was seen very much as part of the rhythm section, an instrument that accompanied and filled out the sound rather than take centre stage as a lead instrument. It was Charlie Christian who helped to take the instrument from side stage to centre stage, with his electric guitar playing, as a member of Benny Goodman's band. Christian's 'Solo Flight' recorded with Goodman's band in 1941 was a seminal moment for jazz guitar.

Prior to Christian it was Eddie Lange, a brilliant and sophisticated player, who helped to make the guitar more popular. Others like Freddie Green who played with Count Basie for decades and Lonnie Johnson who played with Louis Armstrong helped to initially popularise the guitar. In Europe Django Reinhardt played single line melodies that gave the instrument more visibility and he has been a huge influence on many that followed.

Fender made the first solid body electric guitar in 1948 and a few years later Gibson introduced their Les Paul. Many jazz guitarists in the 1950s, was well as later, played hollow body guitars, Tal Farlow was one and his fluid, single note, bop style guitar was a sensation. There was also Howard Roberts, Herb Ellis, Kenny Burrell and Barney Kessel who all combined bop and single note picking, with Burrell in particular combining blues with jazz. Jim Hall, who was classically trained, took jazz guitar in another direction and others like Pat Martino helped refine the style.

Then along came Wes Montgomery whose debut Riverside album in 1958 signalled a new dawn for jazz guitar. There is not a guitarist that has followed in the jazz idiom that has not been inspired and influenced by Wes, who tragically died relatively young at 45 years old in 1968.

In the 1960s the coming of rock took some guitarists from jazz to perhaps follow the more lucrative circuit for music loved by younger fans. Nevertheless rock inspired jazz guitarists like Larry Coryell and John McLaughlin created a fusion style that was a sensation. In their wake came musicians like Mike stern, John Scofield and Pat Metheny. Yet at the same time the acoustic guitar remained the instrument of choice for some including Joe Pass, Al DiMeola, Earl Klugh, Ralph Towner and a little later still, Acoustic Alchemy.

The influence of South American rhythms on jazz in the early 1960s was a significant spur to broaden the appeal of the genre to people who thought they didn't really like jazz…Getz/Gilberto was a groundbreaking album and prior to that Charlie Byrd's Jazz Samba. Brazilian guitarists, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfa and Joao Gilberto have all proved a lasting inspiration.

While America has remained the jazz guitar hot house there are those from overseas that have become popular, including Hungarian, Gabor Szabo, Englishmen, Alan Holdsworth, Phillip Catherine and Martin Taylor, Italian, Antonio Forcione, and Frenchman, Bireli Lagrene.

We've put together a list of the 75 jazz guitar albums that we think are the greatest ever. There are musicians that we've included that you may never have heard of, but every one is worth exploring. To help you dig a little deeper we've put together a Spotify playlist of tracks featuring most of those on the list. You will find below our list, that as you will see is A to z rather than 1 to 75; it would have been just too hard to come up. We would love to hear your suggestions of who we may have missed.

Al Di Meola – Elegant Gypsy
Allan Holdsworth – Metal Fatigue
Andreas Varady - Andreas Varady
Antonio Carlos Jobim – Wave
Antonio Forcione - Ghetto Paradise
Axoustic Alchemy - Red Dust and Spanish Lace
Barney Kessel – The Poll Winners
Barney Kessel – To Swing Or Not To Swing
Bill Frisell – Have a Little Faith
Bireli Lagrene – Standards
Charlie Byrd – The Guitar Artistry of Charlie Byrd
Charlie Christian – Genius of the Electric Guitar
Charlie Haden/Pat Metheny – Beyond The Missouri Sky
Charlie Hunter – Bing Bing Bing
Django Reinhardt – Quintet du Hot Club de France
Earl Klugh – Two of a Kind
Ed Bickert – Live at The Garden Party
Eddie Lang – Jazz Guitar Virtuoso
Emily Remler – East To Wes
Gabor Szabo - Spellbinder
George Benson – Absolute Benson
George Benson – Breezin’
George Benson – Shape of Things To Come
Grant Green – Idle Moments
Grant Green – Matador
Herb Ellis - Nothing But The Blues
Herb Ellis/Joe Pass – Two for the Road
Howard Alden - Your Story, The Music of Bill Evans
Howard Roberts – Velvet Groove
James Vincent - Space Traveller
Jim Hall – Concierto
Jim Hall/Bill Evans – Intermodulation
Jimmy Raney – A
Joao Gilberto - Voz e Violao
Joe Pass – For Django
Joe Pass – Virtuoso
John Abercrombie – Timeless
John McLaughlin – Extrapolation
John Scofield – A Go Go
John Scofield – Uberjam
John Scofield/Pat Metheny – I can see Your House From Here
Johnny Smith – Moonligh in Vermont (w Stan Getz)
Julian Lage Group - Gladwell
Kenny Burrell – Asphalt Canyon Suite
Kenny Burrell – Midnight Blue
Kurt Rosenwinkel – Deep Song
Larry Carlton - Alone/But Never Alone
Larry Carlton – Last Nite
Larry Coryell (w John McLaughlin) – Spaces
Lee Ritenour – Wes Bound
Lee Ritenour 6 String Theory
Lenny Breau – Five O' Clock Bells
Luiz Bonfa – Solo in Rio 1959
Martin Taylor – Spirit of Django
Mike Stern – Standards (and Other Songs)
Norman Brown – After the Storm
Pat Martino – El Hombre
Pat Metheny – Bright Size Life
Pat Metheny – The Pat Metheny Group
Peter White – Caravan of Dreams
Phillip Catherine – Summer Night
Ralph Towner – Solo Concert
Robben Ford – Tiger Walk
Ronny Jordan – The Antidote
Rosenberg Trio – Caravan
Stanley Jordan – Stolen Moments
Steve Kahn – The Suitcase (Live)
Tal Farlow - Tal
Tal Farlow – The Swinging Guitar of Tal Farlow
Ted Greene – Solo Guitar
Tuck Andress – Reckless Precision
Wes Montgomery – Full House
Wes Montgomery – Smokin’ at the Half Note
Wes Montgomery – The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery
Wes Montgomery/Jimmy Smith – Jimmy & Wes the Dynamic Duo

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