A brief history of one instrument in jazz
 
I take it as given that rabid music fans harbor some kernel of desire to become musicians themselves. Take the notion and turn it on its head: every musician I know, have known or ever will know is, has been or will be a music fan.

Once a budding musician enters the enchanting kingdom of scales, modes and textures and learns the fine art of musical storytelling, he will be confronted with many divergent paths. He can stay on the main road or in the middle thereof; he can find a vein of musical experimentation in a particular style and mine that ore for an entire career; he can become a multi-instrumentalist, an arranger, a composer, a soloist, a master on one axe; a journeyman sideman; a star.

But the common factor here is a fanatical devotion to music and a tolerance of all its forms. What type of unit, for example, would the Modern Jazz Quartet have been had its member not been steeped in the European classical tradition? Or how about Joe Zawinul and the later Herbie Hancock without the introduction of electronics into the main mix?

I have been playing guitar for about 35 years now, and I still haven't come to terms with all its possibilities. I am a self-taught guitarist, stealing licks from records, other musicians and transcriptions in guitar magazines and other instruction manuals. The depth of my ignorance of this old instrument is breathtaking. I learn something new each day when I sit down to run my scales.

Still, I don't expect to ever become a "name" player. It is enough that my efforts give me pleasure and I look forward to my practice sessions as a relaxing and enjoyable part of my daily routine.

Let's stick with the guitar for a moment and see where its paths of possibility have taken us in jazz.
Though he was not the first, Django Reinhardt is almost universally recognized as the instrument's shepherd into the fold of solo jazz. When the woefully short-lived Charlie Christian added electricity to the mix a few years later, jazz had for itself a new voice on the bandstand, one that added to the textural pallette of the idiom.

With the advent of a the Brazilian influence came a rank-and-file of heavy-duty names, among them Bola Sete, Laurindo Almeida, Charlie Byrd and Joao Gilberto.

Swing and bop brought to us the talents of such luminaries as Tal Farlow, Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis, Joe Pass, Kenny Burrell and Jim Hall.

The style of the 1950s and '60s were dominated by the self-taught Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and Jimmy Raney and then, as jazz moved out of its moribund period, the smoother, quieter acoustic jazz brought us Larry Coryell, John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola, Paco DeLucia, Bucky and John Pizzarelli, Lenny Breau and Earl Klugh.

With the cauldron of rock 'n' roll at an experimentational rolling boil, Jimi Hendrix rained his influence on rockers and jazzers alike, and it wasn't long before virtuosos with names like Stanley Jordan, Frank Zappa, Allan Holdsworth, the aforementioned Coryell and McLaughlin, John Scofield, Sonny Sharrock and Lee Ritenour were taking control of the bandstand with the fusion that Miles Davis spied in the musical future long before anyone else did.

Avant-garde, soul and modern jazz guitarists on the order of Pat Martino, James Blood Ulmer, Bill Frisell, Phil Upchurch, Cornell Dupree and Eric Gale were adding their spice to the mix.
And that brings me back to the bachelor scribe who sits in his living room each day and runs his scales, listening to recordings and stealing the licks that may someday turn into something worthy of others' hearing.

In the meantime, I know, there are thousands of music lovers like me who are traveling the same path. I'd like to hear them all.