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--- Mar 24 1999 Go to category
Subject: The Guitar Hollow-Body
Category: Guitars
From: Jazz Online (sf,ca)

Historically, the guitar has evolved from a passive rhythm instrument to the main attraction in much of todays music. Given the cyclical nature of trends, do you see the guitar playing a different role in future generations? Also, it appears that the sound of choice for many contemporary players is the synthesized or distorted guitar sound. Do you think we have heard the last of that warm, hollow-body sound the electric guitar originated from?

Pat’s Answer:

you know, i'm so proud to be even a small part of what has happened with the guitar in the last 30 years or so, especially in jazz. the beauty of the instrument (which was actually lost on me for quite awhile) is how unbelievably malleable it is in the hands of strong individuals. think about the possibilities that exist in timbre from some guy playing a nylon string guitar on a beach to someone with a stack of marshalls in an arena somewhere and every thing in between, all with what is more or less the same basic technique. and yes, i'm sure there will be guys always who will find THEIR sound with an L-5 or a super 400 strapped on. we will always be a varied group, i'm sure. i LOVE that variety. we are also in the unusual position in jazz of not really having one definitive "master" that everyone MUST either pass through or ignore- like saxophone players have trane, trumpet players have clifford, piano players have tatum, etc. etc. there have been lots of great masters on the instrument, but everyone's PARTICULAR techniques have been so radically different from each others that there really has never been a guitar consensus on "this is how you do it". i actually love that, it's every man (or woman) for him/herself.

one thing i am sure of though is that the role of guitar in jazz will expand only if the players show up to expand it. jazz is and always has been the music of strong individuals. one of the most vivid examples of this is bill frisell who basically "found" a new space in the music for what guitar players could offer a performing ensemble. it's not even guitar at it's best, it's just frisell. also, in rock, eddie van halen figured out a way to make the guitar's function in a rhythm section really expand. then there's someone like derek bailey who makes us reexamine the guitars' potential again.

my favorite thing though, is that now we can have the guitar function as an equal voice to modern horn players. this is, for the most part, a recent development. (the best first examples would have to be "the bridge"- sonny rollins and jim hall, and before that, jimmy raney with stan getz) one of the best recent examples of this was sco's quartet with joe lovano. i feel very proud that michael brecker and joshua redman, two of the best and most advanced saxophone players i know chose me as a guitar player to play on their respective first records. or that gary thomas, who is about as conceptually advanced as any horn player i can think of, would want to use me as a guitar player to be his foil on a project.

almost everywhere i go now, i hear excellent young guitar players, players who 20 years ago would have had instant careers just cause they can play "stablemates" or something and not mess it up too bad! but, weirdly enough, there haven't been alot of real strong identities to emerge in the past 10 years or so with individual voices. i don't know why. i hear alot of guys who sound like sco, or george benson or combinations of a little of this with a little of that. but you could say there's alot of that going around on ALOT of instruments. but, i'll bet that with all that genuine competence that's out there we'll see some very exciting blossoms on those trees over time. that's actually the more natural way for it to go, even though the jazz "marketplace" seems to demand that you be fully formed by the age of 18. (what makes this ideal stick in place is that sometimes it DOES happen, i.e. christian mcbride, tony williams, gary burton, clifford brown, jaco pastorius, etc.)