I love jazz. And I obviously love guitar. And I love learning and playing jazz on my guitar. But for some reason, I don't have the same enthusiasm for listening to most jazz guitarists. Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Jim Hall, Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis, George Benson, etc. are all mind-blowing, monster players, and I truly enjoy listening to them, but they never send chills down my spine like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and many of the great horn players do. It really bugs me that I'd rather hear something other than my favorite instrument soloing in my favorite style of music.
I have a few ideas. I look at some of my favorite jazz guitarists: Nels Cline, Al Di Meola, Django Reinhardt, John Scofield, Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell, Mike Stern. None of them have that traditional, clean, bass-heavy jazz guitar tone. I feel like that traditional tone just doesn't move me. Not sure what it is, maybe a lack of dynamic control. Seems like horn players frequently explore their dynamic range from whisper-quiet to piercing-loud, while the conventional jazz guitar sound is stuck with a limited range that makes every note sound like it's at the same volume.
I'm drawn to aggressive, intense music too. A background in rock and blues makes it harder to see where more subdued players are coming from. Where are the Zeppelins and Hendrixes and SRVs of the jazz world? I've discovered plenty, but they don't play guitar (except Nels Cline). The kind of player I love the most sounds like he's channeling the force of a hurricane through his instrument. I hear horn players like this all the time, but I guess I need to keep searching for lesser-known guitarists.
Leave a comment if you have any recommendations.