The first guy that got me into chord melody playing was the late, great Joe Pass. His Virtuoso album was the one that did it. I love how spontaneous the tunes sound. It’s like someone shouted out a song and he just goes for it on the spot. Have you Met Miss Jones is my favorite. There’s a part on this song that acutally gave me goosebumps the first few times I heard it.
Another classic is Tuck Andress’ Reckless Precision. My jaw drops everytime I listen to this. There are too many highlights to name, but I still think Man in the Mirror is really amazing.
I need to get some more Wes Montgomery. The only one I have is The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, but it’s really, really good. Four on Six and West Coast Blues are basically standards now in the jazz world. The album has a great mix of ballads and uptempo numbers, as well as really grooving, bluesy playing throughout.
George Benson is one of my all-time favorites. The guy is so funky and he can ride a groove like nobody. I love his early jazzier albums, but the one that got me hooked was Breezin’. Besides the song Breezin’, I just love Affirmation, which is a Jose Felicano tune. His playing on this is off the hook! The Weekend in L.A. album has some great soloing and grooves, also. Don’t write these off just because they have shades of disco!
Mark Whitfield is a great player, who took up the Wes/Benson torch. I really like The Marksman. His was really young when this was recorded, but the playing is so mature. I like the Blues From Way Back and In A Sentimental Mood. There’s also a cool pick-style chord melody called Namu. This guy’s nickname was “quick pick” and you can really here that on Namu with those diminished runs.
I own many Pat Metheny albums, but the one I always come back to is The Pat Metheny Group. It’s got great compositons like Phase Dance. This came out in 1978, but I didn’t hear it until 1991 and it sounded really fresh to my ears then!
Evertime I hear Pat Martino playing, all I can say is “damn”! The guy has chops coming out his ears…the only album I own of his is Footprints. The guy’s life story is really interesting, too.
Ralph Towner is a very interesting player and hard to categorize. He mainly plays acoustically with a nylon string and 12 string guitar. I think he went to my alma mater: Univeristy of Oregon. Ha Ha I own his Solo Concert album and Nardis is awesome!
Bireli Lagrene is a monster player. He’s another guy with chops galore. I own his Standards album, which I really like. The lead off track is C’est Si Bon and the groove is so nice. I love how in the pocket he is on that track.
I’m not sure what Stanley Jordan is up to these days, but he caused quite a stir when he first hit with his two-handed approach. I own Standards Vol. 1 I love Georgia On My Mind and he takes Sunny to the cleaners! Some seriously mind-boggling playing…it’s like the guy has two brains!
Grant Green was one of those players that influenced many guitarists. His playing is just so damn likable! I have Born To Be Blue and Feelin’ the Spirit. I’m not sure if these are the albums to get, but they are a good enough introduction as any.
Eric Skye is an acoustic jazz fingerstylist with a gift for presenting great chord melody arrangements. Acoustic Jazz Guitar Solos is the one I own. If his version of God Bless the Child doesn’t grab you, then you ain’t got a pulse!
Tal Farlow is an amazing player and his history is really interesting, also. The Swinging Guitar of Tal Farlow is a good place to start and yes, he swings and bops all over this album.
There’s more albums to come, so please stay tuned!