Scott Hesse – 5 Desert Island Picks – Jazz Guitar Life

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 Scott Hesse 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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Definitely an interesting process trying to pick out just five recordings…an impossible one for me without putting some limitations on my choices. I limited my picks to guitarists (though I would say I’m just as influenced by non-guitarists, as many here probably also find true for themselves). These recordings had a profound impact on me as a player and the way I approach music. I put my selections in chronological order by their release dates, not necessarily the order in which I became aware of them.

Scott Hesse


1) Grant Green – Talkin’ About (Blue Note, 1965): This organ trio recording with Larry Young and Elvin Jones features some of my favorite playing from Grant. His solos are hard-hitting, bluesy, melodic, and dripping with Grant’s unbelievable feel and tone! But one of the things that really gets me about this recording is Grant’s comping. On the first track, Talkin’ About JC, it’s a minor blues in G. After taking 30 or so choruses, Grant retreats to the accompanying role behind Larry. And of course, it’s also a brilliant solo but I really love Grant’s comping approach. His foundation is from the clave and includes lots of repetitive, groove-based rhythms often played on just two or three strings. When Grant expands his chordal approach, he also expands the timbre of the group propelling them to new heights. I use this track often with my students when talking about the art of comping. The rest of the recording is more of the same, great all-around musical expression and communication.

2) Charles Tolliver Music Inc. – Compassion (Strata East, 1977): I was turned onto this recording by one of my mentors (who also appears on this list), Rodney Jones. There is a guitarist named Nathen Page in this group led by Tolliver on trumpet, Alvin Queen on drums, and Steve Novosel on bass. On the first track, Earl’s World by Tolliver, it features the very unique sound of Nathen taking the guitar apart almost like McCoy Tyner approached the piano. There’s an angularity to Nathen’s linear approach throughout this recording that is unlike any guitarist I knew of before this point. It is very horn-like and guitaristic at the same time— a beautiful blend of straight-ahead, gut bucket blues with the harmonic sophistication associated with Nathen’s more known contemporaries. I also think the openness of his playing adeptly lends itself to this group playing some really interesting music. Nathen affected my perception of playing the guitar in similar settings.

3) Ron Carter and Jim Hall – Live at the Village West (Concord, 1982): I first heard this recording around 1986 or 7. I’d been playing guitar for just over a year and my first reaction to hearing Ron and Jim was quite negative. I didn’t get it at all! So I shelved it and came back to it a year or two later after I had studied music more and did a lot more listening. Then I became obsessed with Hall’s masterful use of harmony and melody. The way Carter and Hall interact with empathy, humor, feel, and depth never gets old. I hear something different every time I listen to this recording…which would be in the thousands at this point! It also serves as a constant reminder that perception changes with maturity, study, and hard work.

4) Rodney Jones – The X Field (Music Masters, 1996): This recording, and the person behind it, holds a particularly special place in my heart. I was a student of Rodney’s for three years in the 90s. (Well, do you ever really stop becoming a student of your mentors?) I was fortunate to be a fly on the wall for this recording back in 1995 as Rodney hired me as an assistant. I got to see and hear much of this music from inception to realization. Rodney took the language of past masters like Wes, Grant Green, and George Benson and wove it together with the concepts of John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Woody Shaw and others and put it to the guitar. That’s what you hear on this recording: an evolution of language and concept. It’s as if the spirit of Trane is expressed with Benson-esque chops but with the expressiveness that is all Rodney Jones. Accompanied by Greg Osby on alto, Kevin Hays on piano, Kenny Davis on bass, and Eric Harland on drums (I believe this is Eric’s first professional recording date btw), the music is loose AND tight and very hard-hitting. For me, and I imagine other guitarists, just the idea that those ideas were possible on the guitar opened doors to bigger rooms of exploration. Invaluable, and I’m forever indebted!

5) Bobby Broom – The Way I Play: Live in Chicago (Origin, 2008): I was first made aware of Bobby Broom again through Rodney Jones. Bobby and Rodney appeared on a couple of Blue Note recordings from the late 80s led by the great Kenny Burrell (Generation and Pieces of Blue and the Blues). Rodney always spoke highly of Bobby’s playing, so I started checking him out. Flash forward a few years, my family and I moved from New York to Chicago where Broom is based. Bobby and his trio had a weekly gig at Pete Miller’s Steakhouse which is where this recording was made. And it captures (on a mini-disc no less!), in a very raw and live setting, the trio of Bobby on guitar, Kobie Watkins on drums, and Dennis Carroll on bass. They play all standards but with some very nice arrangements by Broom. And of course, it features the stellar improvisational prowess of Broom. His inventiveness and impeccable feel are the attributes that always stick out to me. The trio setting is intimidating for most, but Broom and his bandmates make the most of the given space for one of my favorite guitar trio recordings of all time!

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About Lyle Robinson 353 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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