some amazing contemporary guitarists from the United States
October 22, 2007 2:58 AM   Subscribe

Pushing the envelope and changing the frame within which improvisational jazz has evolved for years is the focus of many contemporary jazz musicians. As far as the guitar is concerned, merging Hendrix's legacy with be-bop and the rhythms of popular music has been a primary objective. This can be traced back to the guitar of Pete Cosey in Miles Davis's groups of the 70'S. Jean-Paul Bourelly has been directly influenced by him, and Dave Fiuczynski's group, The Headless Torsos, pays its dues to Miles here. The rhythm concept behind such a shift is explained by wayne Krantz at the outset of this documentary. One can hear how close it is of Kevin Eubanks solo playing. Other guitarists of interest : Mitch Stein, Oz Noy, Charlie Hunter.
posted by nicolin (12 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Cool post! You're missing an s in pushing, though.

Before snarking about Eubanks and Leno (possibly the most annoying comedy duo in the history of broadcasting), watch the clip. He's pretty good.
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:03 AM on October 22, 2007

The drummer in that first clip - Gene Lake - is absolutely stunning.
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:29 AM on October 22, 2007

One can hear how close it is of Kevin Eubanks solo playing

"how close it is of?"

ah! improvisational jazz sentence structure, no doubt!
posted by quonsar at 4:38 AM on October 22, 2007

close of is closer to french than close to is. Sorry.
posted by nicolin at 4:45 AM on October 22, 2007

Dave Fiuczynski is a very cool musician and a very nice guy. We went to conservatory together back in the late 80s. I remember Screaming Headless Torsos from back then. Very funky.
posted by strangeguitars at 5:27 AM on October 22, 2007

"how close it is of?"

nicolin is French. Let's not be a tiny rabbit penis about it.
posted by Wolof at 5:27 AM on October 22, 2007

Wolof, I was gonna say something like "people should take a look at people's profiles and find out if they're native English speakers before poking fun at their grammar and usage", you know, something along those lines, but the tiny rabbit penis thing is better.

And three cheers for Pete Cosey!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:47 AM on October 22, 2007

No problem. I do apologize.
posted by nicolin at 5:52 AM on October 22, 2007


Two more guitarists to look for, Joe Morris and Stanley Jordan. Stanley is all over youtube, but Joe is a bit more obscure. He is currently touring Europe with David S. Ware. If they show up near you I highly recommend them.
posted by caddis at 7:33 AM on October 22, 2007

Everybody ought to check out more Wayne Krantz - one of my favorite guitarists on the planet, and certainly a fantastically articulate and humble guy.

As for the development of the guitar within the Jazz tradition, my survey of it brought me directly to John Scofield, another Miles alum, who, for my money, has done the best, most thorough, most accurate job of applying the language of Charlie Parker to the guitar.

Bill Frisell, on the other hand, couldn't sound more different than Sco, but you can't deny the amazing creativity he brings to the instrument - like other great instrumentalists (Monk comes to mind), you can't imagine Frisell's music on any instrument but his own. (In fact, come to think of it, it's funny how the face of innovation has changed - after Bird, everyone on every instrument wanted to play like him. After Jaco, every bassist wanted to sound like him, but his innovations didn't necessarily apply to other instruments...)

Just to spew a little more about this topic near and dear to my heart, to me the biggest challenge of Jazz guitar is dealing with the fact that Jazz vocabulary depends on the breath - of the singer or the horn player, in particular, because that's how the entire idiom was created - by singers and horn players. The guitar does NOT require breath to produce sounds, and this has two dramatic effects - first, you don't have to stop, you can play endlessly without having to take a breath, unlike singers and horn players; and, secondly, when you play a note on the guitar, it automatically begins to decay, whereas horn players and singers can continue to manipulate the note after it has been sounded.

Now, the first issue can be dealt with - with enough time, study, and sensitivity, you can learn to mimic the phrasing of a breath controlled instrument, as countless guitarist, pianists, and vibraphone players have done over the years. (To say nothing of the fact that players of these non-breath instruments have developed their own vocabulary that is as "Jazz" as horn playing - I'm not trying to take anything away from Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Jim Hall, etc. But I do believe that they BEGAN by learning a style of music that depends on BREATH - THEN they contributed their own personal sound.)

As for the second issue, that of sound manipulation, that's where technology comes in. On the guitar, simply put, you can't play high and loud without the use of effects. John Coltrane - he could play a note on his tenor saxophone in the higher register that would rip your head off, he could hold it for a long time, he could twist it and turn it, he could USE the duration of the note as a way to make a musical statement. Wes Montgomery - not so much. He could play in the upper register VERY beautifully, but the range of the instrument up there is just VERY limited. Add a little distortion (which is what Scofield did), and you get a little more power - all of the sudden you can compete with the horn players a little better. But using breath isn't simply about power - there are countless ways that horn players shade their notes using their breath - just listen to Miles Davis play a ballad. The distortion that Scofield uses, in addition to giving him more power, offers him a huge range of timbral variety, all of which he accesses by adjusting his picking - where on the guitar he strikes the strings, which direction he strikes them in (up or down), whether he uses his pick or his fingers, etc. All this adds up to his sound being truer to the sound of a horn, in my opinion.

Frisell is no stranger to distortion, but sonically his most important contribution, I think, is the volume pedal, which he used earlier in his career to again overcome the immediate decay of the note. It automatically gives the guitar a more expressive, vocal sound. Of course, he has gone on to experiment with lots of different technologies - in particular loops - that broaden the vocabulary of the guitar even more, but not, in my opinion, in the direction of classic Jazz improvisation (not that that's a problem, it's just a different discussion.)


strageguitars - NEC? Me, too!
posted by fingers_of_fire at 10:16 AM on October 22, 2007 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I tried to never miss Wayne's thursday night things at the 55 Bar. The way he went through the changes was rhythmically fascinating. Occasionally he would rip into some Satriani-style pyrotechnics and it was the only time that what he was playing wasn't cerebral, fascinating, awesome. Hard to explain why he's so good, actually; these links definitely get at the heart of it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:31 PM on October 22, 2007

If you're enjoying the stop beat funk that is featured in some of the above links, you'll also enjoy:
Aquarium Rescue Unit (when it had Oteil Burbridge),
Psychefunkepus (Berkeley boys gone good),
and at least one Fishbone album.
posted by lothar at 9:22 PM on October 22, 2007

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