I moved to Boston in 1970 to attend Berklee and Mick was the number one jazz guitarist in town. Getting to hear him live in different groups was thoroughly inspiring. He was at the cutting edge of jazz guitar, which was still in an evolutionary stage.
Mick was one of the first to develop a truly modern style, based on music of the past but different: evolved and meticulously comprehensive on the guitar. I’d never heard anything like it. Jim Hall must have influenced Mick, but Mick was playing the new music of the ’70s and he sounded unique. His was a light-string electric sound that is everywhere today but almost unheard of then. When I finally got to take a couple of lessons with him, I was astounded up close to hear his sound, control, finesse and jazz ability on his Epiphone Sheraton.
I stood on the sidelines and witnessed his ascendancy in jazz with the Gary Burton Quartet and Jack DeJohnette’s Directions. He and John Abercrombie developed legato playing that influenced many of us Mick fans. He stayed in Boston and concentrated on teaching while most of us moved on New York City and wider exposure. I got to know Mick more and appreciated him as the great person he was. I also got to play with him, which was a valuable learning experience—not to mention fun. I love his ECM album In Passing, a special piece of work which fully holds up to today’s listeners.
I hope people realize how important his contribution to jazz guitar has been. Countless players have been inspired personally by his teaching and his playing and Mick is represented every day by his disciples.