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Tuesday February 21, 2017
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Joshua Breakstone

 

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take up the amplified version of the instrument; it let jazz players, most prominently Charlie Christian, match the solo volume of trumpets and saxophones and blues players such as T-Bone Walker wail in loud bars. The fame of the Nat King Cole trio, which featured the guitar of Oscar Moore but no drums, was important in popularizing the instrument.

Blues and rock players exploited the various tonal and volume possibilities that amplifiers provide, but traditional jazz players such as Grant Green, for the most part, preferred clean and undistorted sounds, focusing on playing single-line solos that correspond to what a horn player might do; others, such as Barney Kessel or Joe Pass, blended melodic and chordal approaches.

In the sixties jazz players turned to rock for inspiration, and some guitarists adapted the more distorted rock sound to jazz playing, but others stuck to the cleaner, more conservative approach. Joshua Breakstone is one such traditionalist.

By his own admission, Breakstone was initially inspired more by the harmonically and rhythmically sophisticated trumpet improvisations of Lee Morgan and Clifford Brown than by fellow guitarists. He studied with the magnificent, unjustly forgotten Sal Salvador, a highly original guitarist, author, and teacher, then studied music in college. Listening to Breakstone today, you can hear just how much he learned from Salvador: the clean attack, the slight singsong vibrato, and the harmonic clarity of the improvisations all owe something to the older master.

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