There can be no denying it, jazz music has shaped the course of music history like no other genre. It’s given way to some of the greatest musicians the world has ever known, and inspired some of the world’s most influential musicians.
The following is a brief list that includes some of the world’s best jazz guitarists of all time. Whether you’re an aspiring jazz musician or just someone who appreciates the music, this list is for you.
Charles “Charlie” Christian was an American jazz guitarist who lived from 1916-1942. He is credited with bringing the jazz guitar out of the rhythm section and into the world of solo instrumentals. He was called the best improvisational talent of the swing era and one of the founding fathers of bebop, while single-handedly influencing nearly every other artist on our list. He was so diverse that he eventually was inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame for his early influence.
As the jazz music world continued to gain popularity, more artists emerged. Among them was Wes Montgomery, who was greatly influenced by Charlie Christian. In fact, he learned Christian’s solo and often played them note for note. Montgomery would eventually develop powerful techniques and lines for his own solos which would make him one of the most important and best jazz guitarists of all time. He later would be imitated for generations of jazz musicians.
Improvisation was Jim Hall’s preference for developing new music. Hall discovered there was more to jazz than bebop, and eventually drew the attention of some of the best musicians in the 60’s including the Sonny Rollins’ band and Bill Evans, among others. His style and technique is one of the best seen in jazz music.
We couldn’t go this entire list without mentioning William “Freddie” Green. While his journey with music started with the banjo, Green went on to play in clubs throughout New York as a teenager and quickly discovered his love for jazz guitar. He is known for his complicated rhythm guitar technique that blended perfectly with Big Band music.
Joe Pass also emerged in the 60’s and went down as one of the best solo jazz guitarists of all time. With his extensive knowledge of lines, he created a reputation that continues to inspire artists to this day.
B.B. King was an American singer and jazz guitarist, and also one of the most famous artists to ever grace the American continent. There isn’t much we can say about B.B. that hasn’t already been said, but what we can point out is that he is considered one of the most influential jazz and blues musicians of all time. And will be for the foreseeable future.
Belgian-born French jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, is thought to be one of the best jazz guitarists of all time. Reinhardt was the father of what is known today as “hot jazz” and goes down as one of the best jazz guitarists of all time.
George Benson was born a jazz guitarist artist. He started off playing soul jazz and eventually broke onto the pop scene. He used a similar technique to that of Reinhardt, but was himself an incredible artist.
Larry Carlton, like George Benson, started playing guitar at a young age. Later in life he would play with the likes of Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones and many more. His work within the jazz world is recognized the world over, and his songs continue to provide music for millions.
John Scofield was an American jazz-rock guitarist and composer. His work enabled him to work with everyone from Pat Metheny to Miles Davis. His talents spanned genres including funk, jazz-fusion and rock.
There you have it. Our picks for the best jazz guitarists in history.