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Legends: Solo Guitar Performances

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Album Review

Despite the impression one could reasonably get from the cover of this reissue, these two guitar legends do not perform together, unfortunately. The next best thing are these solo sessions recorded almost 20 years apart. The first 12 items on the play list belong to Smith and capture his tasteful, clean sound coupled with complex chordal voices, which helped Smith in his adventures with playing classical compositions, including for the fabled Arturo Toscanini. Cuts that remind the listener of Smith's occasional classical foray include "Romance de los Pinos," "The Old Castle," and "Maid With the Flaxen Hair." But Smith was no slouch with constructing unique renditions of popular music. In 1952, teaming with Stan Getz, he made one of the best-selling jazz recordings of all times, "Moonlight in Vermont," which still sold well 50 years later. Van Eps was the master of the seven-string guitar, which allowed him to play his own basslines, well demonstrated on such cuts as "Tea for Two." The 11 pieces assigned to Van Eps reveal a predilection for highly rhythmic versions of well-known pop classics. Perhaps not as multi-faceted as Smith, he nonetheless had a fully developed style that approached the depth and complexity of Smith's. This can be heard on such cuts as "I Hadn't Anyone Till You" and "A Foggy Day." Besides which, he could and did swing. Although sideman on many a session, Van Eps left behind a relatively meager discography as a leader. These solo offerings are among his best. Although the styles of these two guitarists may go down different paths, their excellent technical skills, fully elevated imagination, and sensitivity to what they play clearly establish them among the elite of guitar players, true legends indeed. Recommended.


Born: August 07, 1913 in Plainfield, NJ

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

George Van Eps was a quiet legend among jazz guitarists, one who as far back as the 1930s pioneered a harmonically sophisticated chordal/lead style that was eclipsed in influence by the single-string idioms of Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt. Yet Van Eps, like his brassy colleague Les Paul, also stood apart from them as an iconoclastic inventor, designing a seven-string guitar in the late '30s that adds an extra bass string. Thus, Van Eps was able to play basslines simultaneously with chords...
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Legends: Solo Guitar Performances, George Van Eps
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