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10 Tracks That Had a Powerful Impact On Me

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Jazz guitarist and JGT contributor Marc Silver explains the ten tracks that had a major impact on him as a younger player.

Most of these tracks are tunes that had a powerful impact on me when I was a young player. Frankly, ten is not enough to even give a “tip of the iceberg” look at the music that has inspired me over the years. These are just a few that immediately come to mind. In no particular order…


Miles Davis – Shhh/Peaceful (In a Silent Way)

Because this is essentially a one-chord jam (D7 = D mixolydian), I was able to play along with it and better understand what the soloists were doing. This was also my introduction to a young John McLaughlin who, on this album, redefined the role of the electric guitar in jazz.


John Coltrane – Africa (Africa/Brass)

Another one-chord piece (Emi7 = E dorian). Using a bunch of horn players to simulate what has always sounded to me like a heard of elephants walking through the African jungle, this tune has always captivated me… along with Trane’s uninhibited improvisation.


Freddie Hubbard (featuring George Benson) – First Light (First Light)

Aside from Freddie’s amazing trumpet playing, this cut has Benson’s fingers dancing across the fingerboard with power, fire, and soul. Benson’s CTI Records period (both as a leader and sideman) is full of jazz guitar gems.


Miles Davis – Footprints (Miles Smiles)

This tune demonstrates what a rhythm section can do when its players are either telepathic or somehow hard-wired to each other. Tony Williams, Ron Carter, and Herbie Hancock took this now-standard tune to never-before achieved (then or since) heights.


Horace Silver – Gregory is Here (In Pursuit of the 27th Man)

Featuring two young horn players named Randy and Michael Brecker, this happy tune lifts you up and takes you on an improvisational ride that gives you a glimpse of the greatness ahead for the Brecker Brothers.


John McLaughlin – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (My Goals Beyond)

Double-tracked using an Ovation Legend steel-string acoustic, McLaughlin plays one of the most soulful renditions of this classic Charles Mingus tune I have ever heard. It made me want to incorporate acoustic guitar into my jazz playing.


Wes Montgomery – Bumpin’ on Sunset (Tequila)

Basically an Ami7 groove, this tune is an exercise in building a simple melodic solo at a very relaxed tempo. To this day, when I play this tune I still play it note-for-note from the record just like I did back in high school. Five decades later I still love it.


Grant Green – My Favorite Things (Matador)

It took a lot of balls for Green to play this John Coltrane classic with two thirds of Coltrane’s working rhythm section (McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones). Wisely, he did it his way and pulled it off beautifully. Grant’s earlier Blue Note recordings (like this one) show what a great player he was… both as a leader and sideman.


Pat Metheny – Summer Day (Metheny/Mehldau)

The only somewhat recent song on this list, this tune has Metheny playing an acoustic duet with pianist Brad Mehldau. Metheny’s solo masterfully weaves in and out of complex changes with absolutely beautiful melodic statements that seem to cross bar lines in rhythmically challenging ways that are Metheny’s stock and trade. Worth many listens.


Kenny Burrell – Theme IV – Recapitulation (Ode to 52nd Street)

Burrell had a huge impact on me as a young player because I could somehow hear what he was doing and immediately learn from it. This particular piece, which is part of a larger suite, just seems to capture the essence of what I love about Burrell’s playing.


Marc Silver is a guitarist, composer, and author, best known for writing the classic instruction book Contemporary Guitar Improvisation (Utilizing the Entire Fingerboard), which has been teaching guitar players around the world how to improvise since 1978. Visit online at MarcSilverGuitarImprov.com

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