A list of the best jazz guitar albums ever recorded. From Django to Di Meola, via Montgomery, Metheny and many other influential jazz guitarists.
These are timeless albums that should be in every jazz guitarist’s record collection. Together, they cover a wide range of styles; from the laid-back grooves of ‘Breezin’, to the uplifting gypsy jazz of ‘Djangology’.
If you’re just starting jazz guitar then these are the albums you need to check out.
A List Of Best Jazz Guitar Albums (In No Particular Order)
Click on any of the album covers to view (and hear samples) on Amazon.
1. Jim Hall – Concierto
The centrepiece of this album is the arrangement of the Adagio from Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, but the other tracks are equally as good. Jim Hall’s deceptively understated playing is complemented by a top class ensemble: Chet Baker in particular plays some unforgettable solos.
We’ve got the remastered version, which features illuminating alternative takes of some of the tracks. The Adagio itself is twenty minutes of pure, spellbinding, musical pleasure:
2. Joe Pass – Virtuoso
Joe Pass was a master of solo jazz guitar, and here he’s at the top of his game. Featuring solo arrangements of twelve jazz standards, Virtuoso is the must-have album for anyone wishing to explore solo jazz guitar.
3. Pat Metheny – Bright Size Life
Metheny’s lyrical soloing is (necessarily) pushed to the fore in this minimal three-piece ensemble. On Bright Size Life, Metheny is joined by Jaco Pastorius (bass) and Bob Moses (drums). It’s tough call between Bright Size Life and Question and Answer for the best ‘small ensemble’ Metheny recording. We think the freshness and feel of this album just pushes it ahead.
4. Al Di Meola – Elegant Gypsy
Elegant Gypsy was recorded in 1977, and is a classic jazz/fusion guitar album, with strong compositions and virtuosic performances. Al Di Meola’s trademark high-speed alternate picking and the album’s Spanish influence make Elegant Gypsy an exciting and enjoyable listening experience.
5. Django Reinhardt – Djangology
No list of the best jazz guitar albums would be complete without Django Reinhardt. The Belgian-born, French guitarist is one of the greatest jazz musicians that ever lived, and Djangology captures the essence of his playing beautifully.
Djangology is a compilation of tracks Reinhardt recorded in 1949 with his long time collaborator, violinist Stephane Grappelli. Despite being recorded over half a century ago, Reinhardt’s playing still sounds full of life and energy. Djangology is a ‘must have’ jazz guitar album.
6. Jim Hall/Bill Evans – Undercurrent
Undercurrent, recorded in 1962, features the relatively unusual jazz guitar / piano pairing. The tracks – mostly standards – sound fresh and exciting in the guitar / piano context. The sense of two greats playing off of each other is very apparent.
After the upbeat first track, ‘My Funny Valentine’, the mood becomes sombre and rather melancholy. This beautiful album is definitely one for those quiet, reflective moments.
7. John McLaughlin – Extrapolation
Recorded in 1968, Extrapolation is McLaughlin’s first album as a bandleader, but this legendary guitarist’s innovative style is already well developed. Part bop, part fusion – with a hint of rock – Extrapolation is testament to the innovative spirit of the late 60’s / early 70’s.
8. Kenny Burrell – Midnight Blue
Midnight Blue is about as laid-back as it gets. This is real late-night jazz-blues: sit back and imagine you’ve got these guys on stage in front of you.
9. Mike Stern – Standards (and Other Songs)
Recorded after stints with both Miles Davis and Jaco Pastorius, Standards (and Other Songs) finds Mike Stern in a mood that is more ‘jazz’ than ‘fusion’. Stern’s trademark fluid, boppy lines sound great in this traditional ‘standards’ context.
10. Wes Montgomery – The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery
Pretty much guaranteed to be on any list of the best jazz guitar albums, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery is the definitive album by one of the greatest (if not the greatest) jazz guitarists.
11. George Benson – Breezin’
Breezin’ is the ultimate laid back, soul/jazz guitar album. Benson’s playing and tone are second to none. The musicianship in those pre-digital days is stunning, and the whole album has a wonderful pre-digital warmth.
12. Pat Martino – Footprints
If you haven’t heard Pat Martino, prepare to be amazed. One of our all time favourite guitarists at Guitar Command, Pat Martino’s playing is the perfect balance of incredible technique, musical awareness and inventiveness. Footprints is arguably the album that best captures Martino’s remarkable playing.
13. John Scofield – A Go Go
John Scofield’s edgy, cool, playing perfectly compliments the acid-jazz grooves laid down by the Medeski, Martin & Wood trio. An album that gives you the feel of being in the room with a small group of musicians at the top of their game.
14. Bireli Lagrene – Standards
French Gypsy guitarist Bireli Lagrene’s playing takes up where Django Reinhardt left off. Lagrene has explored Hot Club-style jazz and fusion, but on Standards he’s playing more straight-ahead bop, albeit with a ‘gypsy’ feel.
15. Pat Metheny – Still Life (Talking)
This is the other side to Metheny’s recorded output. Still Life (Talking) is a big-sounding, heavily orchestrated album that still manages to contain some very personal moments. Jazz-fusion with a latin flavour and beautifully produced. One of our favourite jazz guitar albums.
Best Jazz Guitar Albums: Conclusion
We tried to keep this list of the best guitar albums to 10, but it ended up being 15. There’s no doubt that there are many more we could (should?) have included.
Compiling a list of the best jazz guitar albums has been an enjoyable task. We’ve revisited many old friends, some of whom we’ve neglected in recent years. Listening to some of them is like reliving our youth.
It’s incredible that putting on an album can bring back memories and emotions from the past. We’ve found ourselves back in our childhood bedrooms, back in university halls, back in our first band rehearsals. We’ve found ourselves whistling along to solos, and anticipating the next tracks of albums we haven’t heard for several years.
I guess that’s the power of great music.
Enjoy this list of the best jazz guitar albums. If you have any comments and / or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.