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.
You really have to hear this musician to fully appreciate his diverse styles. Concord Music Group’s website describes Brown as follows: “Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Norman Brown first picked up a guitar at the age of 8. First inspired by Jimi Hendrix, it was his father’s preference for the sound of Wes Montgomery that set Brown on his stylistic journey. After high school, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his musical career, attending the Musicans’ Institute, where he also taught for a time. While playing with his own group in local clubs, and drawing comparisons to George Benson, Brown was discovered and signed to the fledgling MoJazz label, a division of Motown. He delivered his debut, Just Between Us, and followed with the gold-certified After The Storm and Better Days Ahead.
He made the leap to Warner Bros. and released Celebration. The follow-up, Just Chillin’, earned Brown much-deserved Grammy recognition in the best pop instrumental category. Brown is now on the Peak Records label, a joint venture with the Concord Music Group. Brown’s audience has been expanding over the years. His compilation The Very Best Of Norman Brown was one of the best-selling smooth jazz albums of 2005 and 2006. In January 2007, Brown’s engaging personality led Broadcast Architecture to tap him for its fledgling Smooth Jazz Network as an on-air personality, hosting shifts on Saturdays and Sundays.
Official Website: Norman Brown on Concord Music Group
Tomo Fujita possesses all the elements of great musicianship: astounding technical ability, flawless rhythm skills, and a total command of his instrument. But if asked, Tomo would tell you that music is not just about playing. It’s about feeling. He has a remarkable ability to inject emotion into every phrase he plays, whether the style is blues, jazz, funk or rock.
Tomo earned a degree at Berklee College of Music and has been a faculty member at Berklee since 1993. Perhaps the most famous of his former Berklee students are Soulive guitarist Eric Krasno (Kraz) and John Mayer. Tomo is also affiliated with the major music schools in his native Japan. His articles have been published in the Japanese magazines Jazz Life and Jazz Guitar, and he is a regular contributor to the Japanese edition of Guitar magazine. His instructional materials are especially popular in Japan, where guitar players have bought more than 100,000 copies of his videos and books.
Tomo has performed with some of the best, including Phil Collins, John Mayer, James Genus (Saturday Night Live), Will Lee (Late Show with David Letterman), Kenwood Dennard (Jaco Pastorious, Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Smith), Darryl Jones (Miles Davis, Sting, Rolling Stones), Paul Jackson (Herbie Hancock, Headhunters), Ronnie Earl, Steve Gadd, Bernard Purdie, Steve Jordan and Susan Tedeschi. Tomo also enjoyed a guitar-playing gig in a Boston production of the musical Rent.
Official Website: www.TomoFujita.com
Comfortable with his guitar, a mandolin, a resonator, and other stringed instruments, Pete Huttlinger is a phenomenally talented musician whose work extends beyond stage performances and recording sessions into the world of education as well. His excellence as a teacher is evidenced on many instructional DVDs and other materials.
Guitar Player Magazine said, “In Pete Huttlinger’s hands, a fingerpicked flat-top becomes a mini-orchestra. He juggles it all: a tune’s melody, harmony, and bass lines—even percussion. His playing is fun, scary, and always inspiring.”
Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine said, ” Since graduating Cum Laude from Berklee in 1984, Pete has made his home in Nashville, where he has established himself as one of Music City’s most respected. He is the 2000 winner of the Winfield Fingerstyle Championship and made his Carnegie Hall debut in January 2008.”
In a 2007, article and interview, 20th Century Guitar Magazine said of Pete, “Inspired by guitar legends Chet Atkins, Earl Klugh and Tommy Emmanuel, guitarist Pete Huttlinger has a number of acclaimed instrumental albums and several guitar educational DVDs to his credit. Remembered as John Denver’s lead guitarist in the years before Denver’s death in 1997, Huttlinger shines on his 2007 CD, Things Are Looking Up. Like Tommy Emmanuel, Huttlinger is at his best in the solo finger style acoustic guitar setting, filling up all the parts of the song with his ten fingers and several backing musicians.
Official Website: www.PeteHuttlinger.com
The Blues Music Awards (formerly W.C.Handy Awards) have named him “Best Blues Guitarist” four years out of five (2000,2001,2003,2004) making him the second most honored guitarist for that award! He was also nominated in that category in 2005, 2007 and again in 2008.
In 2007, Duke received a Grammy nomination for his “Guitar Groove-a-rama” CD and was also honored with the prestigious Rhode Island Pell Award for “excellence in the arts.” The Pell award is named for Senator Claiborne Pell who help establish the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities in 1965.
Other awards over the last decade include three Canadian Maple Blues Awards in 2001, 2002, and 2003 for “Best International Blues Artist,” The Blues Foundation’s “Producer of the Year” award in 2004, The French Blues Association “Album of the Year” award in 2002 (Living with the Blues) and “Guitarist of the Year” awards in 1999 and 2002.
BB King himself has called Duke “One of the great players,” The Houston Post called him “one of God’s guitarists. And the New York Times says “Robillard is a soloist of stunning force and originality.
None of that goes to Robillard’s head. He’s still on the road, still playing as many as 250 dates a year. And still proving, night after night, that his true talent is bringing people out to hear the music, appreciate the show, and dance to the blues.
Official Website: www.DukeRobillard.com
Born and raised in Harlem, he was mugged in front of his building when he was 10. Adam Rafferty played in a hard rock band at 12, got ripped off by a club owner on his first gig at 15, and by 18 he was a rapper on a gold record overseas. By 19 he was playing guitar professionally and at 20 he was playing an afterhours joint in Harlem.
Adam has played New York City subways, street corners – and the most upscale music rooms New York has to offer such as Birdland and The Jazz Standard. He’s led his own band through Europe, produced his own albums, and never doubted his sole purpose in life -to play the guitar.
That’s called “paying dues” – and you hear it in his songs, in his groove, in his touch. The history and life experience puts the fire in this man’s music.
Adam has since played as a first-call, in-demand guitarist with the greatest musicians on the planet – with the likes of Dr. Lonnie Smith, The Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, L.A. Studio legend Bennie Wallace, bassist Bob Cranshaw, and Mike Longo -Dizzy’s pianist – to name a few.
Students have traveled across the country, and flown in from Europe -just to pick Adam’s brain for guitar knowledge. He’s taught countless workshops, written books and even has a new instructional DVD available.
Official Website: www.AdamRafferty.com
Paris in the 1930s: The clubs of the French capital are the birthplace of a new kind of music which will go down in history as the first original European contribution to the development of jazz. The main protagonist of this music is Django Reinhardt, the inventor of Gypsy Swing. This music offers an ideal platform for highly talented guitarist Joscho Stephan, a player who appears to know no technical boundaries. Stephan belongs to a new generation of guitar virtuosos who are introducing fresh stylistic elements into Gypsy Swing and his concert appearances leave audiences open-mouthed and spellbound.
Just 20 years old when he released his first CD on the highly regarded label Acoustic Music Records, his name was already known to insiders as a force to be reckoned with on the acoustic guitar.
His debut was named CD of the month by the American magazine Guitar Player and critics waxed eloquent about this virtuoso young musician working in the swing tradition of Django Reinhardt. This authentic European jazz form with its charming mixture of joyous enthusiasm and relaxed coolness offers the ideal platform for Joscho Stephan’s remarkable technical abilities.
On his fourth album “Acoustic Live”, Stephan showcases his mastery of Gypsy Jazz, accompanied by varying line-ups from trio to sextett, and simultaneously stretches the boundaries of the genre. It comes as no surprise that invitations to appear on renowned festivals around the world are becoming ever more frequent.
Official Website: www.Joscho-Stephen.de
Doyle Bramhall II
Doyle Bramhall II was raised in a home filled with the blues and rock and roll sounds of Austin, Texas. His father, Doyle Bramhall Senior, was the drummer for blues legend Lightning Hopkins and a regular collaborator with Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan. When Doyle was 16 years old, he toured as second guitarist with Jimmy Vaughan’s band, The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Shortly after Doyle and fellow Texan Charlie Sexton, co-founded the rock band Arc Angels with the rhythm section from Stevie Ray Vaughan’s backing band, Double Trouble.
After Doyle’s 1999 RCA debut recording, he received phone calls from both Roger Waters and Eric Clapton. Doyle ended up joining Roger Waters for a summer tour while Clapton, along with blues great B.B. King, chose two of Doyle’s songs – “Marry You” and “I Wanna Be” – for their collaborative recording entitled “Riding With The King.” Upon completion of the “Riding…” project, Doyle, his wife – Susannah Melvoin, and Clapton co-wrote and performed “Superman Inside” for Clapton’s album, “Reptile.” Doyle’s playing is also heavily featured on the album.
The latest offering from Doyle Bramhall II, “Welcome” with Smokestack, the band he put together a couple of years ago Joining Doyle in Smokestack is J.J. Johnson on drums and bassist Chris Bruce. Susannah Melvoin contributed background vocals, Benmont Tench [Tom Petty] pulled keyboard duty and Craig Ross played second guitar. Doyle and his band are set to open for Eric Clapton on the first leg of a worldwide tour this year.
Doyle has also been featured on all three [to date] of Clapton’s Crossroads DVDs. Of special note Doyle plays left handed, with a guitar strung right handed. E.G. the heavier strings towards the floor.
Official Website: www.DoyleBramhall2nd.com
Every now and then an artist comes along whose music reaches out and touches the soul of all who hear them…virtuoso guitarist, singer and composer Vicki Genfan is among those artists… Drawing from folk, jazz, pop, soul and world music, Vicki is redefining ‘singer/songwriter culture.’ With a mastery of the acoustic guitar that borders on pure alchemy, audiences are mesmerized by the waves of sound Vicki creates with just two hands and her voice. Using 29 alternate tunings and the percussive technique she calls ‘slap-tap’, you’ll find the addition of her pure, expressive vocals that dig deep and stir the heart to be the perfect accompaniment on many of her songs. An evening with Vicki is far more than a concert; stories, warmth, and humor come gift wrapped in unforgettable music that leaves the audience always wanting more.
Vicki has been recognized among the world’s greatest guitarists and musicians at festivals such as The International Montreal Jazz Festival, Germany’s Open Strings Guitar Festival, Italy’s Soave Guitar Festival, and at venues and Performing Arts Centers across the US and abroad. In 2005, she was a featured artists on ‘La Guitara’, the first compilation CD featuring female guitarists from around the globe, by Vanguard Records.” *
Vicki won the 2008 Guitar Player magazine Guitar Superstar Competition and crafted an instructional video for TrueFire.com. Luna now makes a Genfan signature model that received an outstanding review in 2011 by Acoustic Guitar magazine.
Official Website: www.VickiGenfan.com
Descriptions of Wayne Krantz are enough to engage the curiosity of any musician and they usually run like these:
“A talented guitarist with a boundless imagination.” – The New Yorker . . . . . . “About as hip as guitar playing gets.” – The Tribune, Ireland . . . . . “An unflinching adventurer who dislikes repeating himself or imitating others.” – The Guardian.
Since 1986, Krantz has made 8 records: “Signals” (’91), “Long To Be Loose” (’93), “2 Drink Minimum” (’95), “Separate Cages” (’96), “Greenwich Mean” (’99), “Your Basic Live” (’03), “Your Basic Live ’06″, and his latest release, “Krantz Carlock Lefebvre” (’09).
He has written one book: “An Improviser’s OS” (2005) and has taught at: Berklee, NYU, and at countless workshops worldwide.
Krantz’s musical associations are numerous. He has played and/or recorded for: Binney, Potter, Fagen, the Breckers, the Dan, Cobham, Atakoglu, Bailey,. He has employed on his own projects: Carlock, Lefebvre, Almond, Novak, Jackson, Lee, Socolow, Wilkenfeld, Danziger, Fig, Chambers, Bullock, Goines, Genus, Alias, Beard, Ephron, and Mayer.
In a November 2009 interview with Sweden’s Fuzz Magazine, Krantz offers the following advice for practicing guitarists: “Practice with a metronome and a tape recorder, making adjustments to your playing as you go to make it sound more musical. In fact, try to make it sound like the best music you’ve ever heard, even if it’s just a major scale.
Official Website: www.WayneKrantz.com
Adam’s latest release is an acoustic CD titled ‘The Heart Collector’. “For over 20 years, he has been unlocking the guitar for students of all levels and varied interests. His teaching experience comprises several years with the National Guitar Workshop, the Blue Bear School in San Francisco, and private lessons for New School in New York City. He is the author of ‘Play the Right Stuff’ (book & DVD) and many of his lessons have been published in Guitar Player and Acoustic Guitar magazines. He was the featured guitarist in Norah Jones’ Handsome Band for seven years. His playing can also be heard on recordings by Amos Lee, Tracy Chapman.
Adam Levy now offers guitar lessons worldwide. One-on-one sessions are available to students in the New York area and Southern California. (Levy divides his time bi-coastally.) Online video lessons are available via Skype or iChat. Learn guitar basics, improvisation, chord theory, and ultimately develop the understanding and awareness to take the guitar in any direction you can imagine. If you want to check out some of Adam’s lessons from the archives of Guitar Player magazine, visit TrueFire.com and type “Adam Levy” in the Search window.
Adam’s advice to practicing guitarist includes the following: Record yourself (gigs and rehearsals) and listen back to hear what you really sound like; Have your guitar ready to play at any time; Maintain a practice journal; Get out of the house, and go hear some live music.
Official Website: www.AdamLevy.com