Here are THE 10 jazz guitarists you need to be following today.
And be forewarned … a list like this is always bound to ruffle some feathers. Since we are narrowing this down to only 10 to start, we will need to leave out some monster players. It is not a snub by any means. This is just about the players that currently have my attention right now, and I’ve got to put 1’s and 0’s on the screen.
Some of these are players I have been listening to for years, and some are players to whom I was just recently turned on. There is so much to absorb in the jazz world that it is impossible for me to really cover enough of it, but I will make an attempt to do it anyway.
Check out the 10 Best Jazz Guitarists out there right now…
If you are a fan of jazz music and you have not heard of Kurt Rosenwinkel, you might be living under a rock somewhere! Renowned for his improvisational and compositional brilliance, Kurt has gained worldwide recognition as one of the best over a career that spans almost three decades. He is recognized for his brilliant phrasing and often has a mic on stage to sing along with everything he plays.
Lage Lund is a brilliant player out of Skien, Norway who was awarded a scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston. From there, he received another scholarship for Julliard School of Music and has been in New York ever since. As brilliant as he is with his improvisation, I have always particularly loved his use of contrapuntal devices.
Here is another genius from across the pond. Gilad Hekselman, from Israel, is known for his beautifully melodic playing and mastery over time and dynamics. I would recommend checking out his work with Ari Hoenig to listen to some SERIOUS time manipulation of the highest order. He is also not shy about having a go at some simpler music for the sake of melodic exploration.
Jesse Van Ruller
Jesse Van Ruller is a wonderful player out of Amsterdam, Holland. He’s got sort of a post-bop approach to jazz that I really enjoy because there is a traditional element to his improvisation, but it is also very modern. Jesse has also had a very prolific career as a sideman for guys like Pat Metheny, George Duke, Joe Lovano, Mike Stern, and more.
It’s pretty safe to say that Ben Monder is the most modern-sounding of this list. His approach to accompaniment – and harmony in general – is extremely sophisticated yet captivating. A very prolific composer and player, he has played with a number of great players such as Lee Konitz and Paul Motian. I would definitely recommend his work if you are looking for something fresh.
Originally out of Miami, FL and now stationed in New York, Jonathan Kreisberg has made a name for himself as one of the greatest jazz guitar players today. Widely recognized for his amazing ability to develop simple themes into incredible flowing lines. He also has a great ability to superimpose meters over each other. It is no wonder why he plays with all of the top cats in New York today.
John Stowell, originally from the northeast, relocated to Portland, Oregon in the mid 70s where he formed a duo with David Friesen. John is well known for his wonderful approach to harmony and expansive, free-flowing style of playing. You can also hear some big Jimmy Wyble influence in him. One thing that always struck me about him as a player is the fact that he didn’t really “transcribe the masters”, as they say. His vocabulary seems to come from his own understanding of music and things he probably picked up through listening over and over. These days, he is a prolific clinician, player, and composer.
Mike Moreno… now here is a player I have only recently discovered, and boy am I glad I did! Off the bat, I was struck with the patience in his improvisation and his deep sense of harmony. He is very willing to take a some melodic fragment and develop it without any hurry to impress. It seems the music really takes precedence over flash and parlor tricks with this one. He is also a very technically proficient player and a great listen for any fan of jazz guitar!
Adam Rogers is a wonderful player out of New York City (surprise) with pristine technique and an uncanny ability to play across multiple genres. He is often touted for his fusion playing but I happen to be a big fan of his straight-ahead recordings, especially when John Patitucci is in the mix! In particular, I really love the 2009 release, “Sight”, with Patitucci on bass and Clarence Penn on drums.
Julian Lage is a great young player out of Santa Rosa, California who is widely recognized for his wonderful reinvention of old tunes as well as his own brilliant compositions. One of my favorite things about Julian’s playing is how he makes anything sound like it was supposed to happen. Sometimes, you think something might have not been intended and then, suddenly, it’s a beautiful new extension of what he was playing.
There are so many brilliant players out right now, that it’s impossible to narrow the list to 10 and really not do anyone a disservice. I would like to reiterate the fact that this list is based on my own current listening and not at all a snub to any of these fine players.
If you are looking for a little bit more, here are some more recommendations!
…and so many more! I encourage you to do some exploration on your own and find out what you like. The world of jazz guitar has so much to offer these days that you can never run out of new things to listen to!
About the Author
Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, “brains behind” and teacher on JazzGuitarLessons.net, the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar. He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and professional jazz teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar.