Forgive me if I’ve mentioned this before (perhaps repeatedly), but I’ve been playing guitar now for more than 40 years. So when the time comes around to put together our annual guitar-themed issue, I’ll confess that I get just a little more excited than I do at other times of the year. No offense intended to other instruments or the people who play them; guitars are simply my jam.
It was a special treat for this year’s issue to be able to talk to a modern master of the instrument, John Scofield. And making that opportunity even more exciting was the uniqueness of his latest work: the first true solo Sco album in a distinguished recording career that now spans nearly 50 years. But for guitar fans, that’s only the start of the fun. Kevin Eubanks is here too, talking up his cool new duo project with pianist Orrin Evans, and Mary Halvorson tells the genesis story of her ambitious pair of releases, Amaryllis and Belladonna.
Flip through the pages further and you’ll find pieces on two more distinguished pickers, Gilad Hekselman and Will Bernard. I first became acquainted with the latter’s playing in the 1990s via the audaciously funky T.J. Kirk, in which Bernard shared duties with Charlie Hunter and John Schott. The grand tradition of the organ/guitar trio is nicely represented here as well, both in classic form (the indelible ’60s albums that Grant Green cut with Larry Young and Elvin Jones, subject of Mark Stryker’s Chronology column) and contemporary style (the much buzzed-about Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, whose guitarist Jimmy James contributes a thoroughly enjoyable Artist’s Choice playlist with commentary).
Last but by no means least is David Whiteis’ profile of one of the few remaining jazz musicians who can truthfully claim that he shared a stage with Charlie Parker. Chicago guitar legend George Freeman recently celebrated his 95th birthday just as you’d hope he would: with a pair of red-hot gigs at the Green Mill. To say he’s worthy of an Overdue Ovation is an understatement.
When you scan the names listed above—Freeman and Hekselman, Green and James, Bernard and Eubanks, Halvorson and Scofield—you also cover a whole lot of artistic ground. The adaptability and versatility of the guitar (and guitarists) is praiseworthy indeed, and that more than anything is what we’re trying to celebrate in this issue. Hope you enjoy it.
Coming up next time: another exciting annual tradition, the Legends Issue. And if you’ll excuse my bragging for a moment, this one’s going to be absolutely packed with great stories. Onward…Originally Published