Steve Knight – 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 Chicago based Jazz Guitarist Steve Knight 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) 🙂

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1) Russell Malone & Benny Green – Jazz at the Bistro Live: This album started it all for me. I was in my first big band at Emporia State University and heard Paul Chambers’ burner “Tale of the Fingers” on the late night NPR jazz show and was floored – I didn’t know guitar could sound like that! If I hadn’t heard that album I might be an accountant now!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5xLKlJ6gGI

2) Jimmy Smith – Off the Top: This album should be on all the lists (and is already on quite a few)…incredible lineup, great mixture of the tradition (“Ain’t Misbehavin’”) and the contemporary (“MASH”, “Endless Love”, “Mimosa”) and every player steeped in the blues tradition. This album is grease from start to finish–high cholesterol hip shit. They’re all monsters but George is just relentless! “I’ll Drink to That” and “Off the Top” alone are worth the cost of admission. And Grady Tate…enough said.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcgRZyEqVp8

3) Jim Hall Live Vol 1-4: Including the original CD and the later-released additional volumes, this was the first time I heard and appreciated Jim Hall as the titan he was. Trio interaction – off the charts. Arrangements – stellar. I love Jim’s take on “Scrapple From the Apple” and not just turning it into a bop blowing vehicle. The whole series is a masterclass in listening and minimalism.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iy9qHflKeg8

4) Mark Whitfield – True Blue: This is the record that made me look up Mark to study with him when I got to NYC. Reminiscent (to me) of the Sonny Clark/Grant Green dates, Mark really gets to stretch linearly with the other-worldly harmonic underpinning provided by Kenny Kirkland. With a mix of multiple blues and the modern-sounding (even now almost 30 years later) “Immanuel the Redeemer,” this one really captures my favorite mix of tradition and contemporary. Incredible guitar tone and technique to spare doesn’t hurt either. Tain doesn’t need my endorsement but his work in the guitar trio setting here (and with Paul Bollenback in the future) really inspires me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylBX0KuINL4

5) Merge – Jack Wilkins: I had the good pleasure of spending countless hours with Jack while living in NY – probably more than any other teacher I’ve had. Jack to me has the perfect ratio of athleticism to poetry; he’s muscular but never at the cost of melodicism. Hard to argue with the lineup on this compilation of two earlier albums. Jack’s solo on ‘What is This Thing Called Love” is my favorite kind of playing upstairs – lots of breath and space while still burning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q63Qm8Dpa4E

BONUS PICK: Time (The Revelator) – Gillian Welch:
Dave Rawlings is my all-time favorite guitarist that doesn’t perform in a strictly jazz setting. His playing, whether backup, interstitial, or lead always serves and expands on the song itself, never simply blowing for the sake of blowing. His use of motif, blues, and dissonance provides the perfect foil to Gillian’s vocals and chords. I’m always aspiring to be a great sideman – Dave plays the part to perfection on every recording.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rV_uFpbXZ9k

Please consider spreading the word about Steve and Jazz Guitar Life by sharing this article amongst your social media pals and please feel free to leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you 🙂

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 265 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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