In no particular order, these jazz guitarists are to me, the top 10 most influential players both past and present.
Johhny Smith had a flawless technique and was one of the first to use the straight arm picking technique. In the long run, his technique may have become his downfall. He was almost too clean. He didn’t have the dark, blues vibe in his playing but he was a superb jazz guitarist. It’s amazing how little today’s jazz writers recognize Smith. He won 10 consecutive Downbeat Magazine Best Jazz Guitarist awards.
Joe Lano is probably the greatest little known jazz guitarist. I knew Joe as a student of jazz teacher Dennis Sandole. He was very kind and inspirational to me. His leaving Philadelphia opened up the staff job at the Latin Casino which was pivotal in launching my career as a professional guitarist. Joe settled into the Las Vegas show scene and remains in Vegas to this day
Jimmy Bruno had developed a commercial recording and playing career in LA and Las Vegas. He reached a point where he decided to return to his native Philadelphia and pursue the jazz direction. Jimmy is a versatile, highly musical jazz guitarist. He always concentrated on the sound and the music he was making and didn’t get hung up on theory and technicalities.
Pat Martino is a strikingly original jazz guitarist. Using a horn like blistering attack, Pat carved out a niche forhimself that established him as a unique and important force in the jazz guitar world.
Tal Farlow was a talented but somewhat reclusive player who never quite made the ultimate public commitment to his career as a jazz guitarist. The music was never in question but Tal didn’t particularly like the public identity that his ability warranted. Unusual chord voicings and a strong bebop influenced style carried Tal Farlow to the top of the jazz world before he settled into the quiet life of Seabright, New Jersey.
Kenny Burrell was a Detroit based, blues influenced jazz guitarist who developed a significant reputation for taste and style as a jazz guitarist. His reputation as a gentleman and jazz guitar icon carried him to great popularity throughout his long and successful career.
Joe Pass was a legend in jazz guitar circles. Performing with jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald and many other major jazz singers and artists, Joe was an outstanding supporting guitarist as well as a dynamic solo performer
Dennis Sandole was a jazz guitarist who focused his career on developing a teaching literature which he then passed on to many developing musicians. Noted as John Coltranes’ teacher, Dennis was clearly focused on jazz as an aesthetic art form. He actively discouraged the “commercial” pursuit of music and always encouraged each student to develop his or her own original voice.