Regardless if you’re a beginning student of Jazz Guitar or an established player, we all have at least five albums that we cannot be without! With that said, Jazz Guitar Life has asked UK based Jazz Guitarist Nigel Price what his five would be (assuming that he knew before hand that he was going to be stuck on a desert island and that said island had electricity and a full component stereo system) 🙂
1) Cannonball Adderley and the Poll Winners – 1960: In my quest to find everything that Wes Montgomery had ever recorded, my search took me here.
Cannonball Adderley was the guy who effectively ‘discovered’ Wes so this is a record that was always going to happen. Sometimes these things that look good on paper don’t turn out as well as they ought to but not in this case. It’s an absolute masterpiece, brimming with vitality and utterly burning swing yet with moments of genuine tenderness. It’s recorded brilliantly, capturing Cannonball, Wes, Victor Feldman (on piano and vibes), Ray Brown and Louis Hayes perfectly.
Some of the material is very familiar to Cannonball, with tracks like ‘Never Will I Marry’ (which he also recorded with Nancy Wilson) and Azule Serape but that’s just fine and I feel only adds to the comfortable zone he finds himself in. From this springboard he launches into some of the most exciting improvisations I’ve heard from him. His solo on ‘The Chant’ is, for me, one of the high points in the history of recorded jazz!
Wes slots in so well and it sounds like he’s being playing with these guys all his life. Some of the solos are more exposed than on other recordings of his, especially in ‘Never Will I Marry’ when it’s just down to bass, drums and guitar while Victor crosses from piano to vibes.
I can’t think of any other settings in which Wes does this.
Everyone is on absolutely top form and I couldn’t live without this great record.
2) Kenny Burrell – A Night at the Vanguard – 1959: Kenny rarely recorded in a trio situation which makes this a special record. It’s ’59 and he’s on the best form of his life.
Some guitarists choose to lower the energy level when playing trio and instead up for a more gentle and perhaps often chordal approach but Kenny just goes for it, more than happy to put the message across with fluid, soulful, bluesy lines that are somehow intense yet breezy at the same time.
I consider the recording here of ‘Will you still be mine’ as the definitive version.
The energy doesn’t let up, save for an achingly beautiful rendition of ‘I’m a fool to want you’, and it’s paced perfectly for not only Kenny but also Roy Haynes who’s absolutely relishing the trades. I know many drummers who have unashamedly pinched a whole heap of vocabulary from Roy’s amazing performances on this album.
I reckon I can sing all the solos from this important record and they’re etched on my brain. This recording sets the bar for guitar trio for me.
3) John McLaughlin – Live at the Festival Hall – 1989: As I slowly crossed over from rock to fusion to jazz I encountered some amazing records along the way.
This was one that really knocked me out.
Maybe, given that my taste these days has moved much more straight ahead this is an album that I wouldn’t have taken a second look at but it’s unique and utterly incredible, not only because the drummer is actually the dazzling master percussionist Trilok Gurtu, who’s sitting on his haunches on the floor, playing only with his hands.
Kai Eckhardt is playing fretless bass which I reckon fits here better that a double bass would.
John’s playing is (of course) completely off the hook, in a zone that just a mere handful of musicians will ever occupy. His choice to record on nylon acoustic seems to lessen the ferocity though and it’s a warm sounding record that draws you in whilst also simultaneously blowing you away.
He’s got a guitar synthesiser too but he employs it tastefully and uses it to support himself rather than make crazy sounds. The track ‘Florianopolis’ does exactly this and the moment where Trilok and John hit the two notes together at the end of the mind blowing virtuosity of the solo guitar section represents the peak of human achievement! Seriously!
You could argue that some of it is overly ‘tricksy’ but, what the hell? If you’ve got it, flaunt it!
I listened to this album every day for around six months and when the the band appeared at the Royal Festival Hall the following year I made sure I was right at the front.
It was like a religious experience. Totally unforgettable.
4) Bireli Lagrene & Sylvia’s Luc – Duet – 1999: This is simply two of the World’s greatest guitarists, sat together playing a real mix of tunes on acoustic guitars. From Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time after Time’ to the Beatles’ ‘Blackbird’, taking in jazz, French, Italian and Irish tunes, plus a bit of Stevie Wonder, Michel Petrucciani and even Wes in between, this is a real mix of tunes that you perhaps might not think would sit together on an album, but they absolutely do.
Perhaps the only one that sounds like an add-on is Petrucciani’s ‘Looking Up’ on which Luc switches to electric bass.
The recording is fairly dry, giving a real sense of intimacy and there’s nowhere to hide, not that these guys need to!
Unafraid of space, yet equally unafraid of absolutely going for it, these two legends find their perfect foils in each other. Bireli’s more direct, virtuosic, often ‘gypsy like’ approach being complemented perfectly by Sylvain’s more ‘off the wall’ style and tendency to push complex rhythms into the mix. Sylvain has a turn of speed that is utterly mind-boggling too. He also has a way of eeking out every last drop of emotion from his Godin nylon electro acoustic.
Their version of ‘Isn’t she lovely’ from this album perhaps turned this song into a new standard for guitarists and I think it would be fair to say that it went ‘viral’ for a while.
I’ve listened to this album so much that I now try to leave a bit of time between plays. Every time it comes back on I am as knocked out as I was the first time.
They made another duet album which is also incredible but for me, this is the one.
5) Joe Pass & Nils-Henning-Ørsted-Pederson – Chops – 1979: Having amassed thousands of hours of duo playing time whilst touring with Oscar Peterson, it was only right that these two monster players made an album together. Just the two of them.
Don’t be fooled by the title. Sure, there is some ridiculous, possibly even ‘over the top’ playing, and usually from NHOP, but this record isn’t all about technical ability. The way Nils makes the melody sing on the opener ‘Have you met miss Jones?’ is really quite something and his feel throughout is rock solid, even through his breathtaking excursions into the realm of ‘stunt bass’!
Tracks like ‘Oleo’ and ‘Tricotism’ are great vehicles for the fast stuff but a lot of this amazing record is actually really beautiful and lyrical. ‘Old Folks’, ‘Corcovado’, ‘In your own sweet way’ and ‘Come rain or come shine’ all fit into this bracket. Even Charlie Parker’s ‘Yardbird Suite’ is taken as a bossa, so it’s not all as ferocious as it could have been!
In fact, the whole album comes across as having an underlying melancholic lilt, and is recorded very warmly with zero reverb which seems to bring even some of the more daring forays back into the realm of a record that is, frankly, a joy to listen to. It’s an intimate snapshot of two of the greatest jazz players the world will ever know and is essential listening for every jazz guitarist and every jazz double bass player.
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