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Mick Goodrick: Six-String Theorist

Joel Harrison’s in-depth profile of perhaps the most influential mentor in the history of jazz guitar

Mick Goodrick
Mick Goodrick (photo by Phil Farnsworth)

There was a golden age of jazz guitar in the mid-1970s, when new blueprints were being created by Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Bill Frisell, Mike Stern and others. The foundation was still Jim Hall and Wes Montgomery, but the times called for different aesthetics. Through studies at Berklee and gigs on the Boston and Cambridge jazz scene, these players would reshape the landscape. And they shared the same mentor, Mick Goodrick.

He has taught a remarkable number of prominent guitarists, also including Wolfgang Muthspiel, Lionel Loueke, Nir Felder, Lage Lund and Julian Lage, and inspired many more. Simply put, today’s guitar music wouldn’t sound the same without him. Now 72 and thousands of students later (including this writer), Goodrick has been an eminence in jazz education for half a century. During most of that time he’s been on the faculty at Berklee, where, influenced by Hall and Wes, he studied with Jack Peterson, Bill Leavitt and Herb Pomeroy and earned his degree in 1967. He is beloved by pupils and colleagues in ways that few jazz-guitar teachers have ever been. “He had an extraordinary way of unpacking my problems by listening attentively and then offering organic and often surprising solutions,” says Lage, who worked with Goodrick for two and a half years. “There was no limit to what he wanted to share. I owe an enormous part of my way of looking at the instrument to him.”

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