“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.