Nominated and selected by the TrueFire community, the following ten players join TrueFire’s 100+ Gifted Guitarists You Should Know list in recognition of their extraordinary talent and musical prowess. They are listed in no particular order. Click here to see the full list and learn more about this series.
Chicago born, Chuck Anderson entered St. Joseph’s University in 1965. By 1967, it was apparent that music was to be his career. Both his teaching and performing continued to accelerate. By the time Chuck graduated in 1968, he was ready to teach and play full time. His first major break came in 1969 when he was offered the staff guitar job at the Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The Latin was a famous showcase of world class entertainment. It was there that Chuck had his first associations with the top of the entertainment world. During that period, he accompanied and performed with legends such as Bobby Darin, Billy Eckstine and Peggy Lee among many others.
After four years of fourteen shows a week, it was time to turn in a new direction. Chuck started his concert jazz guitar career in 1973 when he formed the Chuck Anderson Trio. Their first album, “Mirror within a Mirror”, received critical acclaim and was the springboard for a busy concert schedule. The Trio’s music featured Chuck’s original writing as well as uniquely arranged jazz classics.
Chuck currently writes for the national magazines Just Jazz Guitar and Jazz Inside. He has also joined the staff of Jazz Masters at Mike’s Master Classes. His column, “The Art and Science of Jazz,” appears monthly at AllAboutJazz.com. He maintains a busy schedule performing, teaching, composing and lecturing in the US and abroad.
Official Website: www.ChuckAndersonJazzGuitar.com
Paul Brandon Gilbert is an American guitarist, well known for his guitar work with Racer X and Mr. Big, as well as many solo albums. He also joined Joe Satriani and John Petrucci on the 2007 G3 tour. He has been voted number 4 on a list in Guitar One magazine of the “Top 10 Greatest Guitar Shredders of All Time”, as well as a spot in Guitar World’s 50 Fastest Guitarists of All Time list.
Formed in Los Angeles in 1985, Racer X originally comprised Paul Gilbert (guitar), Juan Alderete (bass), Harry Gschoesser (drums) and Jeff Martin (vocals). They were heavily influenced by Judas Priest and Gilbert’s playing was reminiscent of Yngwie Malmsteen, displaying fast-driven solos with extreme-level technique. Gilbert gained recognition as one of the fastest guitar players in the world due to incredibly technical pieces.
Gilbert left Racer X in 1988 and with Billy Sheehan founded Mr. Big, with Pat Torpey on drums and singer Eric Martin. The band became famous internationally in 1991, with the release of their second album featuring featured the ballad “To Be With You”, which reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Gilbert continued playing in Mr. Big until 1997 when he left to pursue a solo career. Mr. Big disbanded in 2002. In June 2009, Gilbert reunited with original Mr. Big members for a reunion tour. They recorded a new album that was released in the USA in Feb. 2011.
Official Website: www.paulgilbert.com
Sparks continues to surprise, challenge, and thrill audiences with his diverse repertoire and stunning technique. Equally at home with Country Blues, Jazz or World Music, Sparks’ extraordinary ability has earned him an international reputation as one of the most innovative guitarists working today.
Acoustic fingerstyle guitarist Tim Sparks has always set himself apart from the pack of his peers. Rather than rely strictly on playing blues or age-old folk and bluegrass tunes, or even following in the well-worn paths of John Fahey, Peter Lang, and Robbie Basho, Sparks has followed his muse down into the corridors of musical and cultural history. While no one can dent the influence of great jazzmen on his playing, one can hear the sounds of saxophonists, pianists, and of course the sounds of Yiddish folk and popular music, klezmer among them.
Official Website: www.timsparks.com
As a two time W.C. Handy Award nominee, who has toured with Lynwood Slim, Janiva Magness, Charlie Musselwhite and The Fabulous Thunderbirds, as well as performing with James Cotton, Pine Top Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Mojo Buford, Ted Harvey, Larry Carlton, Robben Ford, Michael Landau, Elvin Bishop, Ronnie Earl, Doyle Bramhall, Michelle Branch and many more… Kirk Fletcher is considered one of the best young guitar players on the blues scene today.
Kirk began playing guitar at age eight after watching his brother Walter perform at their father’s church. While still in High School he discovered the legendary Los Angeles music store, Music Works, where he met owner Jim Foote, “Meeting Jim was invaluable in my search for tone and a better understanding of the mechanics of the instrument…” During this time he performed with R&B artist Christopher Williams and played gospel weekly at The House of Blues, with Brent Jones & The T.P. Mob, also sharing the stage with such artists as Stephanie Mills and Jackson Browne.
In the Mid 90’s Kirk met Al Blake mentored the young guitarist. “Al hipped me to blues artists as diverse as The Mississippi Sheiks to Tommy Johnson…we’re talkin’ pre Robert Johnson stuff…that’s how far back we went..!” and it was through Blake he also met and bonded with guitarist Junior Watson.
Recently Kirk has been touring Europe and the U.S., counseling at Hollywood’s Guitar Institute of Technology, and releasing his third solo album, “My Turn”.
Official Website: www.KirkFletcherBand.com
At age 11, Jody Fisher was taking lessons in the Chicago area and studying with his uncle, jazz guitarist Sid Fisher. After moving to the West Coast as a teenager, Jody continued taking lessons with some of the top players living in the Los Angeles area, including, Herb Ellis, John Collins, and Louis Speigner. It was during these years that he also attended The Stan Kenton Music Clinics. Jody eventually began studying with guitarist/bassist, George Stanley, who started bringing him to gigs and introducing him to other players. From this point on, Jody made a steady living playing the guitar.
Jody has played virtually every style of music professionally. He has played venues such as the Hollywood Bowl and Universal Amphitheater. Primarily known as a jazz artist, he has worked all over the US, Canada, England and Germany. His newest CD, Impromptu, has received critical acclaim.
Jody has published over twenty jazz guitar instructional books Alfred Publishing, Workshop Arts Publications, and Mel Bay. Four of these have appeared in the Smithsonian Institute’s Folkways Exhibition. Jody has written for most of the major guitar magazines, including Guitar Player, Just Jazz Guitar, and Finger Style Guitar.
He has served as Professor of Jazz and Studio Guitar at the University of Redlands, CA, the University of La Verne, CA, and the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts. He has been Associate Director of the National Guitar Workshop as well as Director of the Workshop’s Jazz Summit.
Official Website: www.JodyFisher.com
Born in Milwaukee, Koch got his earliest musical influences from his older brother and later became infatuated with Jimi Hendrix, who remains a profound influence to this day. After studying jazz guitar for four years at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Koch won 1st Prize in the 1989 Bluesbreaker Guitar Showdown judged by legendary bluesman Buddy Guy. Shortly after, he formed Greg Koch and the Tone Controls, which became one of the more popular acts of the region. The band went on to win five Wisconsin Area Music Awards for Blues Artist of the Year (‘93, ‘95 through ‘98), and Koch personally took in seven WAMA awards as Guitarist of the Year (‘92, ‘94 through ‘99).
Koch soon found himself as a clinician for Fender. Bringing together world-class chops and a humorous ability to articulate sounds and techniques with a genuine devotion to all things guitar, Koch has developed an exceptionally effective approach to conducting guitar clinics. Greg’s relationship with music publishing giant, Hal Leonard Corporation, has also resulted in a string of top-selling guitar method books, including “Guitar Clues: Operation Pentatonic,” “Lead Licks,” “Rhythm Riffs” and Koch’s popular Hal Leonard instructional DVDs –on the styles of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, revered blues stylists like Albert King, Albert Collins, Elmore James, Guitar Slim. One is his own twisted take on guitar called “Guitar Gristle.”
Steve Vai noted Koch’s six-string prowess and promptly signed him to the Favored Nations label in 2001.
Official Website: www.GregKoch.com
John Stowell began his career in the early 1970’s by private study with guitarist Linc Chamberland and pianist John Mehegan. Both men were valuable mentors to John, allowing him to play with them as he progressed in his development. Several years later he met bassist David Friesen in NYC, and they formed a duo that recorded and toured prolifically for seven years, with performances in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia. The duo continues to perform thirty years after their first meeting.
In 1983, John and David joined flutist Paul Horn and Paul’s son Robin Horn (on drums) for a historic tour of the Soviet Union. This was the first time in 40 years that an American jazz group had been invited to play public performances in Russia. John’s two sold-out performances in Kursk may have been the first appearances there by an American jazz musician.
John continues to tour, record and teach internationally. He has been Artist-In-Residence at schools on four different continents. He served as assistant director and performer in Oregon Public Broadcasting’s PDX Jazz Summit in 1991. Since 1995 he has been a contributing columnist for a number of magazines, including “Downbeat”, “Guitar Player”, “Canadian Musician”, “Soundcheck” (Germany), and “Guitar Club” (Italy).
He has been featured on the soundtracks of two Academy Award Nominated short films, on BET Jazz Discovery, and two TrueFire.com courses; in Japan’s “Swing Journal,” “The Jazz Guitar” (England), the Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz.
Official Website: www.JohnStowell.com
Julien was born in France to American parents and spent his youth as an army child moving around the American south. Inspired by Bob Dylan and the Beatles, he took up the guitar at the age of eight. At sixteen, while living in Florida, Julien began touring with the legendary blues/rock band Crosscut Saw featuring harmonica virtuoso and singer Pat Ramsey. After several years and one album, Julien decided to seek more challenging musical terrain. He moved to the fertile music town of Austin, TX where he gigged constantly, honing his skill among the city’s heavy hitting players for four years.
Despite the great musicians in Austin, Julien was frustrated by the lack of a vibrant jazz scene so he accepted a scholarship to attend the jazz program at the University of Miami. He put himself through school playing with IKO IKO, the house band at Tobacco Road, which allowed him to share the stage with a who’s who of blues legends and touring artists. After graduating from UM, Julien received another offer – a jazz guitar fellowship at University of North Texas – to complete his Master’s degree.
Julien is now based in Boston, where, in addition to writing, performing, and recording his original music, he is a professor on the guitar faculty at Berklee College of Music. ‘The Berklee gig is ideal in that I can impart my values and extensive performance experience to younger generations of talented musicians while interacting with a faculty of renowned international artists.’
Official Website: www.JulienKasper.com
Steven King is a recording artist, performer, and educator whose guitar skills are amazing. Excerpts from the reviews posted on his web page will tell you a lot about how King’s talent is esteemed in the guitar community.
“For those unfamiliar with Steven King, here’s the quick run-down: he won the National Fingerpicking Championship at an earlier Winfield (Walnut Valley) festival. He’s known for performing solo, acoustic-guitar versions of full, jazz-band arrangements, recorded “live” with no additional overdubs.”-Wood and Steel
“It’s hard to top Steven King… He knocked us silly with solo acoustic renditions of the Benny Goodman staple ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ and Dave Brubeck’s odd-meter workout ‘Blue Rondo A La Turk’.” – Guitar Player Magazine.
“…I wrote 33 articles for ‘Guitar Player.’ I have more than 8,800 jazz guitar recordings and nearly 2000 jazz guitar videos…I feel qualified in saying Steven King is the greatest solo guitarist I’ve ever seen or heard!!”… -Robert Yelin, music professor and Guitar Player Magazine columnist.
“And I thought Joe Pass had chops. I still remember hearing Pass’s Virtuoso album for the first time, wondering how one guy with two hands could play so many parts at once. Now, along comes King, transforming his lone guitar into an even fuller ensemble capable of playing more complicated arrangements…He has no apparent peers…” – Dirk Sutro, former jazz critic for the Los Angeles Times; author of Jazz for Dummies; and host of “The Lounge” on KPBS-FM San Diego.
Official Website: www.KingOfGuitar.com
On his web site, Thom tells us a little about himself. “My name is Thomas Charles Bresh and I am a creator. My educators were among the very best. My father was a musician (Merle Travis). My dad was a photographer. Mom played the piano. I was raised on the most photographed movie ranch of its time. Most of my friends were entertainers, musicians, actors or stunt people. My life has been filled with many different influences. Because the influences were all part of the “Arts”, they felt natural to me and I embraced them. I have played music for as long as I can remember, which made me a lover of sound and the art of recording it. Helping my dad in the darkroom and being raised on movie sets, gave me the love of film and light and the experts were always teaching if you listened. I have created a lot of stuff in my day. I would like to share some of this “Bresh Stuff” with you.”*
Thom has appeared on multiple stages and TV shows. He is just a modest guy. When it comes to guitar skills, his awards tell us a lot more about his abilities. Thom has been nominated for two Grammys and nominated for an Academy Award in the category “Song Of the Year.” In 2001 he became an Inductee into the Thumbpickers Hall of Fame and in 2007, he received the President’s Award for the Thumbpickers Hall of Fame.
Official Website: www.BreshMan.com