Progressions: 100 Years of Jazz Guitar
This expansive four-disc anthology essentially covers the recorded history of the guitar in the 20th century, beginning with the ragtime banjo that set the table for the role of the guitar in a jazz setting in the early 1900s, and then touching all the bases clear through to the post-postmodern possibilities of the instrument in the 21st century. Don't let the subtitle throw you, though, because Progressions: 100 Years of Jazz Guitar interprets jazz guitar in the broadest of strokes, as it includes not only pantheon jazz players like Eddie Lang, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, Les Paul, Wes Montgomery, and John McLaughlin but also provides an uncommon sweep by featuring Hawaiian stylists Roy Smeck and Sol Hoopii; Western swing aces Leon McAuliffe and Eldon Shamblin; country jazzman Hank Garland; rock virtuosos Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, and Jeff Beck; fusion funksters Larry Carlton, Al DiMeola, and Mike Stein; and hard to classify avant-garde players like Derek Bailey, Sonny Sharrock, James Blood Ulmer, and Marc Ribot. In all, 78 guitarists from some 33 labels are represented. Arranged roughly by date of recording from first to last (there are some deviations to trace the development of a particular style), it is easy to follow the track listing for Progressions in the well-organized 148-page book that accompanies the discs, and what emerges is a portrayal of the massive influence the guitar has had on every form of popular music in the past century. One could quibble about players who were left out, and things are slightly tilted toward electric players as the set progresses, although that is probably understandable, since getting the guitar plugged in is what made it work in large ensembles in the first place. It's hard to argue with a piano, but a case could be made (and this set assembles ample evidence) that the electric guitar was the defining popular musical instrument of the 20th century, and certainly the dominant ensemble instrument for the last half of it. Progressions: 100 Years of Jazz Guitar suggests that the possibilities for the guitar are far from exhausted as the musical time line begins to edge deeper into the 21st century. A beautiful set.