The Spanish guitar in jazz, fingerstyle

  • CharlieByrdTrio - Alhambra Guitars blog

    Charlie Byrd, Baden Powel or Ralph Towner are some of the interpreters of jazz with the Spanish guitar.

    The Spanish guitar is usually linked to classical, flamenco, and of course, folk or popular music. But it is not common to relate it to jazz music, alone or together with other instruments such as percussion, wind or other electric guitars.

    There are references of great musicians who have used or are using the Spanish guitar played with fingers, also called fingerstyle, in order to develop their music, especially when classical, jazz and Latin music are combined.

    An example of the use of the Spanish guitar is Charlie Byrd (Virginia 1925 - Maryland 1999), who began his career with the jazz music, to continue with the classical music along with Andres Segovia. However, he acquired his international renown and his position as a reference by means of incorporating South American rhythms (Latin rhythms) in his music. His performances with the Charlie Byrd Trio, founded by himself, or with the great guitars trio, which consists of Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel and himself, are fabulous.

    In the available information about Byrd, some critics underline the great work introducing jazz which was done by this musician as well as the technique of using the four fingers of the right hand, the fingerstyle. And they define it as the old precedent of Ralph Towner.

    Ralph Towner (Chehalis, Washington, 1940) is a guitarist, pianist, composer, and the American co-founder of Oregon, one of the most innovative jazz groups.

    At the beginning of his guitar training, he also received classical guitar training, which gave rise to the development of a good technique to play music in the right hand.

    The style of playing with fingers is the common denominator of these guitarists, a style which was practiced by other jazz legends such as Joe Pass, who also made use of a pick to play the guitar; the fingerstyle predominated in his interpretation.

    Moreover, it is important to mention to Baden Powell de Aquino (Rio de Janeiro 1937-2000), known as Baden Powel, was a guitarist who practiced the fingerstyle and played different styles of music such as Bossa Nova, Samba, Brazilian Jazz, Pop Brazilian, Latin Jazz, and Popular Brazilian Music.

    A very prolific composer, who apart from being a reference in the South American music, introduced African rhythms in his music and created the so-called Afrosambas.

    Using the words of Powel with regard to his music: "I am able to play French waltzes, jazz, and whatever it was necessary, but when I compose, my heart is Brazilian".