Bill Coon – 5 Desert Island Album picks

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 Canadian Jazz Guitarist Bill Coon 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) Jim Hall – Jim Hall, Live!: Jazz guitar fans everywhere need to thank Canadian bassist/pianist/vibraphonist Don Thompson for bringing a reel-to-reel tape recorder to the Jim Hall’s week-long gig at Bourbon Street in 1975. Thompson must have known this gig would be something special as he captured the trio’s incredible telepathic and intuitive playing on some of Jim Hall’s favourite standards and bop tunes. The music is also a snapshot of a high-water mark in Jim’s playing, where his creativity, technique, sound, and rhythmic energy come together like never before. Terry Clarke on drums is outstanding in his ability to listen and respond wonderfully to Jim’s solos. The same can be said of the recording engineer and bassist Don Thompson. Jim Hall in turn sounds inspired by his bandmates, switching effortlessly between single lines and chords, all the while setting a new standard for jazz guitar trio playing.

2) Ed Bickert and Don Thompson – At the Garden Party: The Canadian guitarist Ed Bickert is heard here in a mix of duo and trio settings that brings out the best in his playing. While lyrical and poignant on “Who Can I Turn To”, he delivers clear, post-bop single-note lines on the blues “Ease It”. Ed also displays his amazing comping abilities while supporting bassist Don Thompson on Alone Together. Check out the chords he uses on Come Rain or Come Shine where he creates a magical and elegantly swinging version of this classic standard. The piece de resistance is “What is This Thing Called Love”. Ed Bickert and Don Thompson never play the melody in the six and half minute track, but you don’t miss it. The rhythmic creativity of the duo and the flow of Ed’s solo are breathtaking. This track, just like the rest of the album never gets old.

3) Jimmy Raney – Live in Tokyo: Another guitar trio album, this recording captures Jimmy Raney in good spirits and full of great ideas. Sam Jones on bass and Leroy Williams on drums support Raney’s superb solos. Adopting a straight-ahead approach on most songs, Raney plays the melody in chords and then normally plays single-string solos. One exception to this approach is his stellar version of “Darn That Dream.” I credit this performance to my life-long fascination with this song. One of the first guitarists to really adapt the bebop language to the guitar, Raney always sounds original and fresh.

4) Sonny Greenwich – Evol-ution Love’s Reverse: Don Thompson once again makes it on to one of my top five albums, this time as a pianist. Don seems to really understand guitarist Sonny Greenwich’s music and compliments his playing beautifully. Gene Perla is on electric bass and the incredible Claude Ranger is on drums. Sonny’s musical concept is influenced by John Coltrane but he’s not copying Trane’s vocabulary so there is an authentic and original vibe to everything Sonny does. I heard the same band play at the Rising Sun in Montreal and as a young guitarist just beginning to play jazz, it made a huge impression on me. Despite the recording quality not capturing the real beauty of Sonny’s guitar tone, this album gives you an idea of the feeling of what it was like to see four musicians on stage totally committed to creating improvised music in the moment.

5) Barney Kessel, Ray Brown and Shelly Manne – The Poll Winners: I had to choose between this classic trio recording and albums by Grant Green and Kenny Burrell but the arranger in me won out! This recording is such a great example of what three musicians can accomplish when they collaborate to come up with fresh versions of well-known standards. Kessel’s playing shows off his swinging drive and melodic clarity as well as his ability to create memorable chord melodies, both improvised and worked out. Ray Brown plays great solos and immaculate bass lines, and Shelley Manne adds just the right feel and textures on drums. Nothing sounds forced or contrived yet each song has an individual character that makes this recording stand the test of time.

Honourable mentions: Grant Green – Grantstand; Kenny Burrell – Midnight Blue; Jim Hall Trio Featuring Tom Harrell – These Rooms

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About Lyle Robinson 350 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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