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7 Amazing Jazz Guitar Performances

It is almost impossible to speak about music objectively. Different listeners prefer different styles, and this is also applies to jazz guitar. Some people like a hard-driving bop, while others prefer a more hip swing or guitar solo that soars over a classic jazz standard. Still, there are some musicians who seem to transcend the genre and rise above the rest, regardless of the era or style. Although it can be difficult to decide which are the greatest, here are 7 jazz guitar performances that definitely stand out.

Wes Montgomery, "No Blues"

Wes Montgomery is a guitar virtuoso, and many of his solo efforts would fit well on a list of best performances. On "No Blues," Montgomery moves seamlessly with, through, and above the Wynton Kelly Trio lines. His lines flow, whether he runs through a crescendo or plunks out staccato chords. The performance is everything you could want in a jazz guitar performance.

Charlie Christian, "Stompin' at the Savoy"

Charlie Christian was a pioneer in electric jazz guitar. In this 1941 performance of "Stompin' at the Savoy," he epitomizes the transition occurring, combining the ring and hum of the electric with the technical skills required of the best acoustic performances. He moves effortlessly through glides and arpeggios to make his instrument sing.

Kenny Burrell, "Mule"

Kenny Burrell has a knack for sitting inside the beat, almost feeling like he pulls the rhythm section back through his ability to play through each fully-extended pulse of the group. In "Mule," he hits every note and chord to perfection, alternating among quick runs and resonant tones that lift an entire piece to another plane. Every listen reveals a new nuance to Burrell's work. 

Pat Methany, "Bright Size Life"

Improvisational skill lies at the heart of jazz, and all the great jazz guitarists know their chord structures and how to dance in and around them. In "Bright Size Life," Pat Methany runs through his trademark triplet patterns to create a guitar solo that simultaneously lies within the beat and dances around it. His rhythm and his runs soar. Even among the myriad choices within Methany's magnificent career of jazz guitar work, this classic performance stands out.

George Benson, "Sky Dive"

George Benson is universally considered one of the greats on jazz guitar. His performance on "Sky Dive" demonstrated his virtuosity and his musical sensibilities. His runs drive through the beat and settle within it, and he manages to make the guitar both sizzle and wail. Over the course of this piece, we get to hear the full range of what he is and can be as a musician, and it is beautiful.

Django Reinhardt, "Stardust"

Great musicians make each other better. On "Stardust," Django Reinhardt performs with Coleman Hawkins, an all-time great tenor saxophone players. The two men have distinctive styles, with Reinhardt blending an almost folk feel in with his work on this jazz standard. It is easy to forget that Reinhardt manages to create what he does with a malformed left hand. The result of this collaboration is pure gold.

Grant Green, "Jean de Fleur"

When Grant Green performed "Jean de Fleur," he hit perhaps the peak of his abilities, in part because the track feels almost effortless. Everything falls into place as easily as though he were playing scales, but he does so with the hip sensibilities of the most wily veteran of the club scene. He moves between chords and individual notes, with every moment of his improvisation emerging as though it could not have been played any other way.

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