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Old 06-19-2010, 09:44 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default The role of guitar in Jazz.

The role of guitar in Jazz confuses the hell out of me. I'm not entirely sure that in a lot of live arrangements of songs, where you have 9 to 12 instruments, how the guitar factors in.

As forums go, god forbid you ask something without looking it up first so heres what the Wiki had to say...

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Chord-melody and unaccompanied soloing

In this style, the guitarist aims to render an entire song — harmony, melody and bass — in something like the way a classical guitarist or pianist can. Chord roots play an important role in this style; however, chords themselves can be used sparsely or more densely, depending on both the individual player and his or her arrangement of a particular piece. An added bass line can also be sparse, or used more densely and rhythmically as is found in ragtime guitar as well as more straight-ahead jazz styles. Chord-melody is often played with a plectrum (see Tal Farlow, George Benson and others); however fingerstyle, as practised by Joe Pass, George van Eps, Martin Taylor, Ted Greene, Lenny Breau or hybrid picking as practised by Ed Bickert and others allows for a more complex, polyphonic approach to unaccompanied soloing.
I get the concept, I'm just not sure I hear the sound. I was thinking this as I watched Sting play guitar on the Haiti performance if you're wondering where I'm coming from.
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Old 06-19-2010, 09:49 AM   #2 (permalink)
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A lot of the time in big band style jazz it's just kind of a background rhythm instrument.
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Old 06-19-2010, 10:09 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Having played electric guitar in various local jazz bands over the past 3 or so years, I've learned that the guitar is a vital part of the band, and even more so if there is also a piano in the band. When there is a singer, the louder instruments like the brasses (usually) don't play over the verses - those chords are covered by none other than the guitarist(s). When the whole band is playing it's often harder to hear the guitar as the music usually calls for a richer, bass-heavy tone. The guitar is just a background instrument, filling out chords and notes that other instruments (besides the piano) can't play. Sometimes the guitar has a solo too.
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Old 06-19-2010, 10:39 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Burning Down View Post
Having played electric guitar in various local jazz bands over the past 3 or so years, I've learned that the guitar is a vital part of the band, and even more so if there is also a piano in the band. When there is a singer, the louder instruments like the brasses (usually) don't play over the verses - those chords are covered by none other than the guitarist(s). When the whole band is playing it's often harder to hear the guitar as the music usually calls for a richer, bass-heavy tone. The guitar is just a background instrument, filling out chords and notes that other instruments (besides the piano) can't play. Sometimes the guitar has a solo too.
There it is. Alright that makes a whole lot more sense. Yeah I often wonder what sort of range a trombone could have but that's for another thread.
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Old 06-19-2010, 01:58 PM   #5 (permalink)
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The guitar also helps keep the chord changes fairly smooth. All the notes are played by one person rather than three or four different people, who might be slightly out of time with one another.
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Old 06-19-2010, 09:01 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I would hardly call guitars 'vital' to jazz. My old jazz instructors always told me they're great to have, but they're fairly 'unnecessary'. They have too many restrictions in the way they're built. Though in the hands of the right people... Well of course.
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Old 06-27-2010, 04:07 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I think that it's kind of like bass is to a rock song. You notice it, and in some songs it is more obvious than others. It is not necessary but with it you get more atmosphere in the music and it kind of adds something for the music to be based off of. Like there wouldn't be a lead guitar in most jazz songs, but instead a rhythm guitar playing chords. It kind of functions like backing vocals.
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Old 06-29-2010, 10:43 AM   #8 (permalink)
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It dates back to the old dxieland days, when there were banjos in the band, and it was more of a percussive thing instead of chordal.

Check out some old Freddie Greene to get a good idea of what jazz guitar was at the advent of electric guitar.
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Old 06-29-2010, 07:32 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I don't know about Sting (wtf?) but I do know that Charlie Christian is an essential jazz figure - he totally fueled Benny Goodman's band and his instrument was as important as any of the others. And of course there's Django. And Wes Montgomery. Check your wiki. In the meantime here's some Charlie Christian who I feel revolutionized Jazz with his guitar

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Old 07-01-2010, 07:41 AM   #10 (permalink)
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How essential it is totally depends. There's no guitar on Miles Davis "Kind of Blue" from 1959 which might be the most famous jazz record in music history. On the other hand, it's a fairly essential part of the arsenal of the big 70s fusion bands (just an example).

So discussing guitar's role in jazz seems a bit futile. What kind of jazz? Are you talking big band, gypsy jazz, fusion, swing jazz, modal or what?
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