About a year or two ago, I was looking for some really good advice on jazz guitar playing, and as I was scouring the internet, I came across Jens Larsen’s YouTube Channel. Jens is a really fantastic jazz guitar player, and has some amazing advice and videos on jazz guitar playing! Check out Jens Larsen’s YouTube Channel here!
Jens started out as a rock and blues player, but became interested in jazz because he was interested in improvising. He discovered that when he was playing music with other people and creating something in the moment, that was the most fun part of it, so he wanted to learn more about that and explore improvisation. This is when he found jazz, where almost everything is improvised and began learning how to play jazz guitar!
Today, Jens is here to share his list of the Top 10 Jazz Guitarists that have influenced him!
1. Charlie Christian
If you have to start somewhere and have to mention someone, this is the person you have to start with. Christian is arguably the godfather of jazz and one of the first people to really start using the electric guitar. He was the guitar player with Benny Goodman, a clarinet player and a really big star at the time, so that got him a lot of good exposure. There is one solo feature that he has on “Solo Flight”, that almost every other guitarist that has come after him learns by heart because it has been so influential.
2. Jim Hall
This is one of the ones that Jens got into early on. Coming out of the bebop era, everyone was playing long lines and lots of notes, but Jim Hall was always playing fewer notes, and was still so rhythmically interesting and very melodic. Jens feels he is one of the best jazz guitarists we have ever had!
3. Wes Montgomery
Many people consider him to be the most important jazz guitar plater, and has been a massive influence on later jazz guitarists. He managed to not only play hardcore jazz, but also cross over into more popular music. Later in his career, you will find him playing with a string orchestra, playing pop tunes, like songs from The Beatles. And the whole time he was playing these pop tunes, he still managed to be a fantastic jazz guitar player. He has tons of groove, lots of arpeggios, octaves – which are his signature thing – and also chord solos. He was one of the first to really bring chord solos to the game.
4. Pat Martino
Pat Martino was one of the first prodigies on jazz guitar, and also one of the first jazz records that Jens ever listened to and immediately set out to learn solos from. He is mostly famous for his long, flowing eighth note lines and his very complex harmonies. He essentially has his own theory on how to understand music and how to think about harmony.
5. George Benson
He followed in the steps of Wes Montgomery and managed to cross over into pop music. He’s a truly amazing and intuitive technical jazz guitarist. What is also amazing about him is that he is also a great singer, and he has such an incredible connection between his voice and his fingers, where he can play and also sing and scat along.
6. Joe Pass
His Guitar Style book is really the book that almost everybody learned to play guitar from! He did a lot of work with pianist Oscar Peterson, and vocalist Ella Fitzgerald throughout his career. His ability on the guitar, in terms of feeling like a complete orchestra by himself, is really unparalleled!
7. John Scofield
Scofield has been a huge influence on jazz as a whole. He has has a very long career, starting with being the guitar player for Miles Davis in the 1980s. Jens got into him because he was really good at playing blues, which is where Jens started out. The way that he can work with playing behind the beat, playing bluesy phrases, and also having a very modern sound is amazing.
8. Pat Metheny
You can’t really get much more modern than Pat Metheny! However, in an interview he made the argument that he was more traditional than modern because of the way he learned to play guitar, which was not with a formal education school, but teaching himself and simply learning from those around him. What makes him so unique and influential is that he is always looking for new ways to create new sounds. He is also one of the first – if not the first – jazz guitarists to have a wet-dry-wet rig, which is quite an extensive set of amplifiers on the stage.
9. Kurt Rosenwinkel
With Rosenwinkel, you can really hear Pat Metheny’s influence, as they are both very melodic players. He has these really strong melodies, but because he is also a piano player, he is also very strongly rooted in a lot of bebop. So there are signs of modern in him, but also some very traditional signs to him. He is also very good at adding chords to his solo lines, and comping himself, which is something that really sets him apart from other guitarists.
10. Gilad Hekselman
He came out of the New York scene in the early 2000s. What drew Jens to him was his work with Ari Hoenig – a fantastic jazz drummer – and all the rhythmical things they were doing, as the way they played together was just magical. While this is a list of guitar players, Jens says that one of the most important things to him, is how the people he listens to work alongside the rhythm sections and the things they are able to do together. It is not just about the guitarist as a single person, but how they work as a part of the combination of a chord instrument, a bass player, and a drummer.
Watch the video below to learn more about Jens Larsen and his top 10 jazz guitarists!