September 19, 2005
A monumental work, this four-CD box set celebrates the evolution of jazz from the perspective of our favorite instrument. Featuring representative cuts from 75 pivotal players, 100 Years of Jazz Guitar offers selections from the dawn of recorded music (originally captured on Edison cylinders) extending to the present day. The adventure begins with a harp-guitarist strumming in 1906 and stretches to Bill Frisell’s “Ron Carter,” released in 2001. Relatively unsung giants such as Lonnie Johnson, Roy Smeck, and Eddie Condon rub shoulders with the likes of Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, Tal Farlow, Wes Montgomery, and Pat Metheny. The scope is enormous—shifting from Sol Hoopii’s bouncy lap slide to Marc Ribot’s skronky sonics is an ear-bending non sequitur—but that’s what makes this collection so valuable. We hear the entire spectrum of jazz guitar, from swing to bebop to funk to avant-garde. There’s plenty to read, as well: John Scofield penned the collection’s intro (he also appears musically), there’s a bio for every player, and 25 of the included guitarists reveal whom they find inspiring and why. “Essential” is an overused word, but in this case, it’s wonderfully appropriate. Columbia/Legacy.