March 31, 2010

THE BIG DETOUR:

Herb Ellis, Jazz Guitarist, Is Dead at 88 (PETER KEEPNEWS, 3/31/10, NY Times)

Mr. Ellis was an early disciple of Charlie Christian, whose deft improvisations, built on long single-note lines, established the template for modern jazz guitar in the 1940s. But he was always more than an imitator: his style mixed the harmonic sophistication of bebop with the earthy directness of the blues and seasoned the blend with a twang more typical of country music than jazz. [...]

In 1947 he and two associates from Jimmy Dorsey’s band, the pianist Lou Carter and the bassist Johnny Frigo, formed the vocal and instrumental trio the Soft Winds, whose song “Detour Ahead” became a jazz standard, recorded most memorably by Billie Holiday.

He first attracted wide attention during his five-year stint with Peterson’s popular group, which, like the Soft Winds, included a bassist (Ray Brown) but no drummer. The absence of a percussionist required Mr. Ellis to provide the rhythmic foundation for Peterson’s energetic playing as well as the guitar solos; he did it so well that when he left the trio in 1958, Peterson replaced him not with another guitarist but with a drummer.


Posted by Orrin Judd at March 31, 2010 11:37 AM
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