Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Secret Strings: 10 Most Underrated Guitarists in the History of Jazz

Grant Green
Grant Green is one of the underrated guitarists on our list. (photo: Francis Wolff)
Jimmy Raney
Freddie Green
Freddie Green (photo: W. Patrick Hinely)
Attila Zoller
George Barnes
Lenny Breau
Grant Green

“Like it or not, guitarists apart from Charlie Christian do not rank in importance in jazz as highly as horn players or pianists,” wrote guitarist Duck Baker in response to an informal survey sent to a few of our contributors asking who they thought were the most under-appreciated guitarists in jazz. “To say that Rene Thomas is underrated is true, but nothing like as significant as saying that Hasaan Bin Ibn, Fats Navarro or Bill Barron are underrated.”

Sure, bagpipes are right up there, but the guitar is the outcast instrument of jazz. Some people object to the guitar’s too thin and mellow tone, especially in the context of nervous hard bop. Others find the guitar too associated with rock to be a jazz instrument. Still more find guitar chordings to be shallow harmonic substitutes for the rich variety a piano provides. Of course, any tin ear who thinks any of those things needs to sell his or her record collection and take up staring at a wall for a hobby. The guitar is one of the most versatile instruments in the world.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published