4 Best Jazz Guitarists of All Time

Did you know April 30th is International Jazz Day? Jazz music, an American-originating genre, has been globally popular since the 1920s. Combining facets of both Africa and European musical traditions, jazz is most commonly arranged using piano, drums, double bass, trumpet, saxophone, and you guessed it… guitar! And though many jazz guitarists have stood out over the past 100 years, there are only a few that we call the greatest of all time.

Wes Montgomery, Django Reinhardt, Joe Pass, and Charlie Christian are four players we can say this much about. Each of these guitarists contributed substantially to the progression of jazz guitar, and inspired the next generation of world-class players. Let’s celebrate International Jazz Day with some guitar lessons that are directly inspired by these founding fathers of jazz guitar!

Wes Montgomery

“Wes Montgomery” by rauter25 is marked with CC BY-NC 2.0.

Wes Montgomery lived from 1923-1968, and made a name for himself by his outstanding musical fluidity and unique style of playing. Wes played, largely, by bracing the body of the guitar with his fingers while striking the strings with the side of his thumb. One of the sonic textures he was best known for, however, was octaves.

Wes Montgomery Guitar Lesson with Tim Lerch

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Download the tab & notation for this Wes Montgomery guitar lesson

Here is a free Wes Montgomery inspired guitar lesson from Tim Lerch. The blues you’ll learn here is based on the chord changed to Wes’ tune, “West Coast Blues.”

Django Reinhardt

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Hailed by many as the best jazz guitar player to have ever lived, Django Reinhardt had an influence that arguably spans to every modern guitar player. Django wrote many compositions over his lifetime, and some of which, like “Belleville” and “Nuages” became standards in the jazz world. Due to injuries he sustained in a fire, Django accomplished all of this without the use of his ring and pinky finger on his fretting hand.

Django Reinhardt Guitar Lesson with Reinier Voet

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Download the tab & notation for this Django Reinhardt guitar lesson

In this free lesson, Reinier Voet shows you how to play a passage from Django’s “Blues en Mineur.” Be patient learning this one!

Joe Pass

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“Joe Pass” by Tom Marcello is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Another legendary player on our list is the great, Joe Pass. Starting his performing career at only 14, Joe let the world know of his virtuosity early on. Over his lifetime, Joe won a Grammy award, made notable television appearances, and inspired countless new guitar players.

Joe Pass Guitar Lesson with Henry Johnson

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Download the tab & notation for this Joe Pass guitar lesson

Here’s a free Joe Pass guitar lesson from Henry Johnson! In this lesson, Henry shows you how to approach soloing over the chord changes for Joe Pass’ tune, “There’ll Never Be Another You.”

Charlie Christian

Charlie Christian was involved in many jazz bands at a young age, but made his world-stage debut with the “King of Swing,” Benny Goodman. A regular collaborator with Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Christian is most famous for being the founding father of bebop-style jazz guitar.

Charlie Christian Guitar Lesson with Sean McGowan

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Download the tab & notation for this Charlie Christian guitar lick lesson

In this lesson, Sean McGowan shows us how to play a relatively long riff in the style of Charlie Christian. Let’s try it out!

Enjoying these free jazz guitar lessons? Check out more great lessons from top educators on TrueFire.

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