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7/17/07

Jazz finger style

The unaccompanied guitar in jazz is often played in chord-melody style, where the guitarist plays a series a chords with the melody line on top. True fingerstyle jazz guitar, without the use of a plectrum, dates back to players like Eddie Lang (1902-1933) and Carl Kress (1907-1965), but the style did not really fully develop before the invention of the electric guitar. George van Eps (1913-1998) was revered for his polyphonic solo guitar playing, and Joe Pass (1929-1994) truly popularized fingerstyle solo jazz guitar improvisation in his latter years. Ted Greene and Lenny Breau were other masters.

Today, fingerstyle jazz guitar has several proponents, from the extraordinary Martin Taylor to the pianistic Jeff Linsky, who freely improvises polyphonically while employing a classical guitar technique. Contemporary jazz guitarist Earl Klugh has also recorded several fingerstyle jazz projects on the solo guitar.

An important factor that influences the unique sound of this style is that most jazz fingerstylists play in all keys, unlike folk, classical and flamenco players who favor keys that provide open strings---C, G, D, A and E (or these same chord formations in other keys with the aid of a capo). Many ragtime and jazz guitarists play the same tunes but the sound is usually quite different.

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