A Jazz Guitar Sampler on YouTube

March 18, 2012 by  

gibson-l5I haven’t done one of these in a while, and I have a few days off from work, so what better time to catch up on things MyMac? Sometimes it’s just not enough to hear CDs or old, scratchy LPs to enjoy and sometimes discover for the first time outstanding practitioners of the jazzmaking art.

George Van Eps

Let’s start with one of my all-time favorites, George Van Eps, who I profiled here a few months ago. Two sessions from his later years (when he was in his late 70s) have been posted to YouTube in recent months. If you notice he’s playing a lot of George Gershwin tunes, it’s probably because Gershwin was a family friend and was often a visitor to Van Eps’ father’s home to enjoy his homemade booze (during prohibition times).

First was apparently a clinic setting:

I’ve Got A Crush On You

Stompin’ At The Savoy

Original tune demonstrating “stride guitar” technique

Cheek to Cheek

The second setting is a series of tunes posted by another fine jazz guitarist, Howard Alden, who often performed in a duo setting with Van Eps in his later years. If Moonglow sounds a tad familiar, it was Van Eps whose rhythm guitar playing perfectly set the mood for the dance scene with William Holden and Kim Novak in the 1955 movie Picnic.

Stompin’ At The Savoy

Night and Day


Kenny Poole

This is a poigniant piece. Cincinnatti-area guitarist Kenny Poole knew he was dying from esophgeal cancer, but wanted to do one more concert for his friends while he still had the energy and ability. Frankly, he looks a fright, and only had another painful month or two to live. This didn’t take away one iota of his skill and musiciality as evidenced by this amazing nine minute rendition of the old standard Brazil. He used a technique called “deep tuning”, where he tuned his guitar down two whole steps to give the effect of a seven-string guitar while playing a more conventional six-string.


Ted Greene

Here is another Van Eps devotee, but at the same time, one who truly had his own unique voice, and who was one of the great teachers of the guitar. A terribly shy man, he didn’t often venture out of his Los Angeles-area apartment. He had many students, and didn’t charge them nearly enough. He left behind only one LP, recorded in the 1980s, and appeared on a couple of John Pisano duet CDs. Fortunately, he left a decent legacy of video, recorded by some of his fans, much of which is now posted on YouTube. There are so many, I’ll just note a few of my faves and suggest you do a search on YouTube for “Ted Greene”. You won’t be sorry.

One of my all-time favorites is his performance of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, recorded at a Los Angeles-area music store where he was doing a clinic. It’ll literally tear your heart out. Noodling is just him improvising for about nine minutes during a 1993 master class at the Musician’s Institute. Please note that “just improvising” is massive understatement.

Find out more about Ted at the website his family and friends set up for him after his untimely death a year or two ago, at www.tedgreene.com. The site has videos, transcriptions, and more.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas


Autumn Leaves

Like Someone In Love

God Bless the Child

Joe Pass

An extraordinary player, Joe Pass was part of that group at the pinnacle of jazz guitardom. I often privately talk about first string, second string, third string, etc., players. Joe was without a doubt one of the players in that first string, which included George Van Eps, Tal Farlow, Mundell Lowe, Howard Roberts, Barney Kessel, and a few others. His recorded legacy is superb, especially in the latter two decades of his career when he recorded for the Pablo label. He was also filmed on numerous occasions for television appearances, including several performances at the Montreux Jazz Festival from the mid-1970s. Here are a few that made it to YouTube:

Donna Lee with bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted-Pederson

Meditation, with Ella Fitzgerald

Blues for Sitges

Joe Pass on Ella Fitzgerald TV special

All The Things You Are

Tal Farlow

One of the great practitioners of bebop jazz, Tal Farlow, known to his friends as the “Claw” for his huge hands that permitted him to play unusual chords that few others could, was another of those top tier players who achieved fame in the early 50s. Tal hit the big time as the guitarist with the Red Norvo Trio, which included Charles Mingus on bass and Norvo on vibes. He tired of the rigors of the road and the business part of music, and went back to his first profession, sign painting, for about 20 years, though he did play a lot at local Jersey Shore bars during that time. Coaxed out of retirement several times in the 70s and 80s, he toured extensively, recorded several instructional videos, and in general enjoyed doing what he did best–played jazz guitar. Here are just a few examples:

Fascinating Rhythm, with Red Norvo

Darn That Dream, with Louis Stewart

Air Mail Special with the Great Guitars (Herb Ellis, Charlie Byrd)

Barney Kessel

Here are some great Barney Kessel performances on YouTube.

Barney talks about his guitar. Note his Oklahoma twang.

Flintstones Theme with Herb Ellis

St. Thomas, a Sonny Rollins tune

Autumn Leaves

Johnny Smith

Here are a few rarities that recently popped up on YouTube, including a duet with Mundell Lowe:

What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?

Seven Come Eleven with Mundell Lowe

Marty Grosz

Another favorite of mine is acoustic rhythm player, singer, artist, raconteur, band leader, and a whole lot of other stuff, Marty Grosz. Marty, the son of Dada painter George Grosz, who fled Germany with his family just ahead of the Nazis, initially played the banjo in small groups in and around Chicago. He switched to guitar in the 60s, but used tenor banjo-like tuning (Bb-F-C-G-B-D). He moved to New York in the 1970s, where he achieved wider fame.

All God’s Children Got Rhythm

John Pizzarelli

John Pizzarelli, son of famed soloist and rhythm guitar Bucky Pizzarelli, has been playing swing and jazz since the mid 1980s, and has matured into a fine player and vocalist. Here are some of my favorite examples, in particular where John does a solo right from the George Van Eps book of guitar playing. Both John and dad Bucky play custom 7-string guitars.

Eps’ Frets

They Can’t Take That Away From Me

Satin Doll with dad Bucky Pizzarelli

Seven on Charlie, a tribute to Charlie Christian