Charlie Christian was a forerunner in establishing the musical language of bebop.
Charlie Christian was a forerunner in establishing the musical language of bebop. Greg Murray
Prior to the advent of electrical amplification, the role of the guitar in jazz was strictly that of a chorded rhythm instrument, chugging along with the bass and drums and helping to propel whatever ensemble it was a part of. Soloing was pretty much out of the question because, without amplification, the guitar couldn't be heard over the horns.
As soon as guitarists could plug into an amplifier, however, the electric guitar started making its presence felt as an improvisational voice in jazz. It's come a long way since the late 1930s, and many great jazz guitarists are doing amazing things today. But every guitarist now playing owes something to at least one (if not all) of the pioneering jazz guitarists listed below.
This article originally ran Aug. 16, 2010.