2022’s Solo Guitar Albums: An Eclectic Mix

As we all say good-bye to 2022, Guitarist Cormac Walsh has compiled a list of “idiosyncratic” solo guitar releases – that while the choices may not be everyone’s cup of tea – they still deserve a year-end shout out!

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Undoubtedly the most well-known exponent of solo jazz guitar playing, Joe Pass recorded seventeen albums worth of solo material in his career. Joe’s popularity did much to ensure that a strong tradition of solo playing endures to this day. I would go as far to say that the recording of an unaccompanied album has almost become traditional. Recently, young luminaries like Pasquale Grasso have continued to push the limits of what is possible on the instrument. This past year in particular has seen some exceptionally idiosyncratic releases, as well as some more conventional efforts by long-established players.

Kicking off 2022 was Slovenian guitarist Samo Šalamon’s Dolphyology – a solo guitar tribute to multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy. Partly inspired by Mike Okazaki’s tribute to Thelonious Monk, Work (2018), Šalamon tackles each of Dolphy’s enigmatic compositions in turn. The album is sparse and brooding, with a real sense of spontaneity throughout.

March saw the release of two fantastic albums. First came Szymon Mika’s Attempts, a beautiful collection of original compositions, including a tribute to ECM legend Ralph Towner. Next up was Michael Gregory Jackson’s Electric Git Box. Although best known for his avant-garde playing, this solo effort is perhaps best described as jazz fusion, drawing on elements from jazz, blues, rock and world music. Uniquely for a solo jazz guitar album, Jackson uses a distorted sound and frequently allows notes to bleed into each other. The result is an engaging album with a meditative quality.

In May came a quick succession of unaccompanied efforts by three long-established virtuosos. Biréli Lagrène allows his gipsy-jazz roots shine through in Solo Suites, his first solo album since To Bi or Not to Bi (2006). It includes an exceptional rendition of “Caravan” which brilliantly showcases his distinctive rhythmic style. With nothing left to prove, jazz guitar royalty John Scofield also released an understated but enjoyable album, mostly accompanying himself with the use of a loop pedal. The only posthumous album released this year brings together solo takes of German guitarist Helmut Nieberle, recorded over the course of two decades. Nieberle, who passed away in 2020, beautifully interprets a selection of standards on his archtop.

October brought with it another set of standards from a German guitarist. Dirk Mündelein includes inventive arrangements of “It Don’t Mean a Thing”, “Lover Man” and “Very Early” on his album Standards? Standards!

Last but certainly not least, Kurt Rosenwinkel released his first ever solo guitar project Berlin Baritone. Although inspired by seven-string originator George Van Eps, the album features nine inventive compositions that are decidedly modern with beautiful voice leading and surprising harmonies throughout. Thoughtful and distinctive music from one of the best players out there… what better way to cap off the year?

Honorable Mentions:

Joe Marcinek’s Solo Guitar released February 4th

Marek Pasieczny’s Seven Jazz Pieces released April 2nd

José Emilio Gobbo’s Allerton Park Suite released April 24th

Michael Langer’s Acoustic Jazz Guitar Solos released June 6th

Peter Janson’s Getting to Here released July 15th

Maurizio Brunod’s Trip with the Lady released October 11th

Steve Oliver’s Sojourn released November 11th

Carl Orr’s Bordertown Sunrise upcoming

Jazz Guitar Life thanks Guitarist Cormac Walsh for his time and commitment in writing this article 🙂Lyle Robinson

If you would like to support all the work I do on Jazz Guitar Life, please consider buying me a coffee or visiting the Jazz Guitar Life sponsors. Thank you and your patronage is greatly appreciated regardless if you buy me a coffee or not 🙂

About Lyle Robinson 283 Articles
Lyle Robinson is the owner/creator/publisher and editor of Jazz Guitar Life, an online magazine dedicated to the Jazz Guitar and its community of fine players worldwide.

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