I am heartened by how it gets harder and harder to pick the best of the year. It means that there are more and more great records of modern guitar being issued all the time. This year was made a little easier by the fact that veteran masters like David Torn, Henry Kaiser, Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, and Eivind Aarset all appeared on one or more records. The list is rounded out by younger players like Julian Lage, Max Kutner, and Anthony Pirog, as well as the introduction of new faces: Justus West, Rafiq Bhatia, and Igor Osypov.
On his birthday, it is worth remembering Jim Hall. In many ways he was a forefather of modern guitar. His classical composition training exposed him to many sonorities that would have been unfamiliar to more blues and standards-based bebop guitarists. He never stopped experimenting, whether it was with a DigiTech Whammy pedal, to produce harmonies he couldn’t reach with his fingers, or free improvisation with Bill Frisell or Pat Metheny. Here he plays as part of a modern classical ensemble. Thanks to the great LA guitarist Ken Rosser for posting this on Facebook and be sure to read his intro to it below.
A brilliantly witty take on the Beatles classic, with much use of the expression pedal on her Line 6 DL4 delay. This was was part of a double LP Black Friday 2018 release from Verve. The label had a group of young jazz practitioners contribute tracks to a compilation of tunes from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Many of the tracks sound like a return to the jazz of that era, but Halvorson’s voice is entirely of this moment.
Some Xmas gifts for the modern guitarist in your life.