Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"He's a Great Guitar Player"

Doug: Does anyone out there feel like we ought to be running a Side-by-Side today? That was a long six months! But it's time to move on to other things...

Doug: I mentioned in a comment last week that I'd been in Washington, DC for about 10 days doing some work at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. While there, conversations are often on topics that aren't a whole lot of fun, so whenever the work is done and we're making our way to the Metro station, we try to lighten it up a bit. One of my colleagues was talking about an artist who he likes (to save my life, I cannot recall who he was speaking of) and the comment was made that the artist at hand "is a great guitar player". So, feeling a bit Socratic, I pressed him with "What's that mean?" He replied that this guy is just really good. So, again feeling a bit like a pain in the butt, I said, "Yeah, but Eric Clapton and Eddie Van Halen are great guitar players and they are nowhere close to alike. So what do you mean?"

Doug: So that's your job today. Simple task: just give us your two cents on the statement that is the title of this post -- what's it mean to you?


J.A. Morris said...

I love Hendrix, (Cream-era)Clapton, Townshend, Jack White.

But when I think of great guitar players, I think of my uncle. And I'm not just saying that because he's family, he's one of the most important jazz guitarists in recent history:

Sure, Free Jazz isn't everyone's cup of tea, but give Joe some iTunes love if you're feeling like it.

A related topic:
Who's your favorite comic book guitarist? Rick Jones is the only one who comes to mind, besides the Hypno-Hustler!

starfoxxx said...

I don't have much time today, but I recommend Jack White from the White Stripes. It's very lo-fi stuff, but his guitar playing is fantastic. He plays the same old chords we've all messed around with, just in a fresh way. Check out the White Stripes.

Doug said...

You guys crack me up -- it was indeed Jack White my colleague was speaking of! I don't know why, but his name totally slipped my mind when I was thinking of writing today's post.


Inkstained Wretch said...

The best guitar players are the ones who are unflashy but always hit just the right notes.

Take Keith Richards as an example. He never does a big solo a la Hendrix. He instead gives the song exactly what needs: no more, no less. That restraint is one reason why the classic Stones tunes are so good.

Another example of this approach is Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MGs. It cannot be a coincidence that he was the common denominator on so many of those classic 60s soul tunes.

I met Cropper a few years ago. Nice, soft-spoken guy. His hands were enormous! I felt like I was shaking hands with a baseball mit.

Karen said...

A few months ago I saw an excellent documentary called "It Might Get Loud" featuring Jimmy Page, The Edge, and the afore-mentioned Jack White. It compares and contrasts the three but the best parts are when they are together, just noodling around. Highly recommended!


Edo Bosnar said...

If I understand the question as posed in your original post, you're not so much asking for suggestions of who is a great guitar player, but what we think makes a guitar player great. Since I'm not actually a musician or an expert on music, the only answer I can give is: because he/she plays really well. Exemplary skill mixed with that inspiration people variously call soul, feeling, passion, etc. That's the best answer I can give (just as an aside, would you get all Socratic if somebody says something like 'my wife is a really great tennis player,' or 'my brother is a really great cook'?)
By the way, White's pretty damn good, but among the 'newer' guys (in my world that means anything that got big after I finished college) I think Jerry Cantrell really stands out.
J.A. - that's so cool that Joe Morris is your uncle, and I don't mind a little jazz, of any type, at all. Listening to that YouTube link right now, and it's reminding of all that great guitar music I haven't listened to in a while, from classical stuff by Segovia and Django Reinhardt to more modern greats like Zappa, Jerry Garcia or Vlatko Stefanovski (here's a live clip of him with another virtuoso Miroslav Tadic:

david_b said...

Roy Clark.. You want to hear Spanish or Classical guitar.., he's your man. Not on a lot of folk's lists by any stretch, but listen to his haunting renditions, it's gorgeous.

The point everyone's spoken to here is how subjective this subject is..

If you're talking about 'industry-wise' some have come to prominence and changed how we categorize players..: George Harrison was the first noteable 'lead guitarist', leading every group afterwards to tout their star player as 'lead guitar'.. How many other groups before the Fabs announced who eas 'lead guitarist' or whether anyone cared..?

Inkstained praised Keith much more eloquent than I could have, and he's absolutely right! Just hit the right notes, just get that groove goin', and you're tops. Who popularized the Open-E or Open-G tuning..? I just started Open-G and found out just how simple 'HonkyTonk Women' and 'Tumblin' Dice' is to play.

I'm not into flash either. Free Jazz is wonderful to listen to, so are my Blues leanings. I've never been one to get into 'full-on' overblown, orchestral jams.. Just a guitarist, or just a pianist on the stage alone..? That paints a more fuller picture or mood than some overblown super-group or 'wall of sound'.

Steve Cropper's an excellent example, thanks again Inkstained. Those session guys can always deliver the goods without a lot of flash, like Laurence Juber.. Beautiful jazz licks, yet you hardly know he's there. Session guys've done more to the overall 'sound' we've grown up with, the very fabric of what we listen to, than we'll ever know.

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