David Bromberg: Saw him playing at a workshop at the Newport Folk Festival, accompanying the great Jerry Jeff Walker. Just the two of them playing. It was the first time I realized that improvised lead guitar in the folk music genre could be accomplished on an acoustic. A revelation!
Mike Bloomfield: Also at a Newport festival, playing with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Absolute mastery of the blues on a Strat. He died too soon.
Jimi Hendrix: What can you say about Jimi? In his brief life he took the electric guitar in directions no one could imagine. I still love hearing his wonderful, twisted, over-the-top version of the blues tune "Red House." Can any of us imagine where he would have taken electric guitar if he had lived longer?
Duke Robillaird: I've been a huge fan of his since his beginnings with Roomful of Blues. I've often said that if you could wave a magic wand over my head and give me the chops of one player, it would be Duke. Class, style, fire, and ALWAYS the "right" notes. Whether playing jump jazz/swing, more traditional blues or straight ahead (undistorted!!) rock, Duke has few equals.
Doc Watson: Although my one interaction with him on a personal level, backstage at a bluegrass festival in Vermont was not great - he was cranky to the point of being rude - his crystal clear flat picking is the standard by which ALL players of that style are judged. And he is one fine finger picker too! Not bad for a guy who's been blind from birth.
Tony Rice: Taking traditional bluegrass and infusing jazz, Tony and mandolin virtuoso David Grisman kicked started a form of music that needed it. While strict traditionalists have issues with what they did to a supposedly sacrosanct form of American music, many others continue to be in awe of his flawless technique and originality. I'm one of them.
Andres Segovia: The father of modern guitar. It is no exaggeration to say that Segovia brought the guitar from being an illegitimate instrument to one that has a rightful place in ALL types of music. I was fortunate to hear him a year or so before he passed away. I treasure that memory.
Pat Metheny: Yes, you can make a case that he was one of the instigators of "smooth jazz" (insert gagging sounds here) but at the time, in the 1970s, he brought accessibility to a form that many people dismissed as being just too hard to understand. As time passed Pat proved that he could play ANY style of jazz with startling originality. He's had some swings and misses along the way but he's never been afraid to reinvent himself musically.
Joe Pass: From all accounts, a complex and difficult person and some of his music gets a bit repetitious to my ear but his work with the great, great Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson is the very definition of class and style. Plus, he was extremely innovative technique-wise with his finger-style playing.
Martin Carthy: One of the first to play Celtic fiddle tunes on an open-tuned acoustic, finger style. Great technique and he captures the fire, heartbreak and pure joy of that music.
Jim Robitaille: No, you've probably never heard of him. I took some lessons from Jim about 15 years ago, learning some of the basics of jazz that were missing in my playing. Jim lives in New Bedford, Massachusetts and plays locally solo, in duos and larger groups. He won a prestigious writer's award at the Montreal Jazz Festival a couple years ago. His playing is flawless, interesting and complex in whatever jazz form he chooses. Hear him if you can - if Jim lived in New York or Los Angeles I have no doubt he would be widely acclaimed, and rightfully so.
Martin Taylor: If I presently do have a "favorite" guitarist, Martin would be the one. His finger style jazz is just pure perfection, filled with joy and passion. You can also hears tiny glimpses of rock and pop in his playing - he obviously doesn't dismiss that music out of hand, as so many jazzers do. My hero!! (plus he has the coolest acoustic guitar name there is!)
Peace & good music,