10 Jazz Fusion Guitarists That Rock article presents a list of 10 smoking guitar players who have become legends in the jazz world. All these brilliant guitar players have led long solo careers as band leaders as well have been part of legendary jazz groups Return To Forever and more. They have played with jazz greats such as Miles Davis and Chick Corea. First and foremost they all have showcased at many times in their careers the ability to rock out.
# 10 – Scott Henderson
We open up our List Of 10 Jazz Fusion Guitarists That Rock with probably the most blues based jazz meets rock guitarists around. Scott Henderson is a virtuous guitarist who plays with incredible feeling and soul. He also stands as also of the most creative. Scott Henderson first became known from his mighty band Tribal Tech formed in the 1980s. During that time, he also played guitar on the first Chick Corea Elektrik Band album. Besides his work with Gary Willis in Tribal Tech, he was also a member of the band Vital Tech Tones. Outside of his work as a band member with these groups, Scott Henderson has also released a handful of solo albums that have showcased his screaming and brilliant guitar playing.
# 9 – Kazumi Watanabe
Continuing with our List Of 10 Jazz Fusion Guitarists That Rock is the phenomenal Kazumi Watanabe. This man can shred! Kazumi Watanabe has released close to fifty solo albums since his debut album was released in 1971. He first became known to American audiences in the 198os when he toured with popular bands like Steps Ahead, and The Brecker Brothers. His 1987 album The Spice Of Life became a jazz-rock fusion masterpiece.
# 8 – Frank Gambale
In the number eight spot on our List Of 10 Jazz Fusion Guitarists That Rock is the second guitar player who spent time as a member of the Chick Corea Elecktik Band. If we include the guitar players who were also a part of Chick Corea’s Return To Forever, fans can see how much of an impact Chick Corea had on jazz fusion since the 1960s. Frank Gambal is one of the most exciting guitar players I have ever heard. The man can play with such precision and beauty but yet can floor it when the time is right. When he puts the pedal to the medal, he would fit right in standing on stage with bands like Black Sabbath or Judas Priest.
# 7 – John McLaughlin
Landing in the number seven spot on our 10 Jazz Fusion Guitarists That Rock list we present the first of two of the most legendary and most respected names in the history of jazz fusion. John McLaughlin has one of the most impressive resumes of any guitar player in history. His career began in the 1960s playing with various rock groups including the Graham Bond Quartet which was an early incarnation of Cream that featured Jack Bruce and, Ginger Baker in the band with John McLaughlin. He would go on to join the Miles Davis band playing a key role in some of the most important albums Miles Davis released during his peak 1960s output including In A Silent Way and the double LP Bitches Brew.
One of John McLaughlin’s biggest contributions to music history was the formation of his band Mahavishnu Orchestra. That band would release close to ten albums in the 1970s and 8os becoming one of the most influential jazz fusion meets rock, meets world, groups of all time.
# 6 – Al Di Meola
Any music fan into jazz fusion knows this name. If ever a guitarist had a reputation for being one of the best it was Al Di Meola. Music fans first became familiar with the playing of Al Di Meola when he took over the guitar chair from Bill Conners in 1974 in Chick Corea’s Band Return To Forever. Al Di Meola would record four albums with that wonderful jazz fusion meets progressive rock group. Of course, Al Di Meola would really cement his legacy in music history with so many brilliant solo albums including such big selling records such as Land of the Midnight Sun and Elegant Gypsy.
# 5 – Larry Carlton
At the number five spot on our 10 Jazz Fusion Guitarists That Rock Out list we take a listen to the sound of a guitar that music fans have heard thousands of times on countless recordings by some of the most famous music artists of all time. In the 1970s, Larry Carlton became one of the most popular session guitarists in the music industry. His name began to become well known when he worked with Steely Dan. At the same time, he had begun his own solo career releasing jazz fusion albums with scorching heavy-duty rock guitar solos. If you want to name a few guitar legends who have not gotten the credit they deserve for their contributions to the history of pop and rock music, Larry Carlton should be at the top of that list.
# 4 – Bill Connors
Moving along on our List Of 10 Jazz Fusion Guitarists That Rock we present the exceptional Bill Conners. Born in California in 1949, Bill Conners’ career began as a blues and rock and roll guitar player. Those early years would fuel his playing when he turned to jazz. Bill Conner’s first claim to fame as a jazz musician began when he joined Chick Corea’s legendary band Return To Forever in 1973. Bill Conners recorded the album Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy with the group and then left in 1974 to embark on his solo career.
# 3 – Allan Holdsworth
We could not put together this list without including Allan Holdsworth. In many ways, Allan Holdsworth defines his own category. He was known as a jazz fusion and progressive rock guitarist. It’s almost impossible to know where to start with Allan Holdsworth. He was a member of some many progressive rock bands in the 1970s and 1980s including Tempest, Soft Machine, and UK.
Allan Holdsworth celebrated an amazing solo career by releasing iconic albums like Metal Fatigue, and Atavachron. However, he is also thought of as one of the most creative, and original sounding all-around guitarists of all time. So many guitarists from all genres claim that Allan Holdsworth was a huge inspiration. I have heard this also firsthand from some of the greatest guitar players I have ever known and interviewed.
# 2 – John Scofield
Just off the top spot on our List Of 10 Jazz Fusion Guitarists That Rock Out is the very cool John Scofield. Lists like this were made for someone like John Scofield. The man is an incredibly respected jazz guitarist standing in jazz history as one of the best of all time. However, he is also celebrated in the rock and roll world for the work he has done with Gov’t Mule. All music fans should check out the 2015 album Sco-Mule.
Like Mike Stern and many other legendary jazz guitarists, John Scofield played in the Miles Davis band early on in his career, although he actually played on dozens of jazz records before his time with Miles Davis. In 1977, John Scofield released his debut solo album. Since that time he has turned the jazz world upside down with his electrifying playing, especially in the mid 1980s with albums like Blue Matter and Loud Jazz, two records that all rock music fans should have in their collection.
# 1 – Mike Stern
We close out our List Of 10 Jazz Fusion Guitarists That Rock Fans Should Check Out list with one of our favorite guitarists across all genres. Since we first heard his debut album Upside Downside in 1986, we have been huge fans of Mike Stern. It is safe to say that nobody plays jazz like Mike Stern. You don’t see a lot of jazz guitarists playing a Fender Telecaster. That’s what Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, and so many more rockers play. When Mike Stern takes a solo, he lights it up with amazing incredible virtuoso playing with a high-end rock and roll energy. So many times I have watched him floor it on stage while witnessing great musicians standing next to him just being blown away by what they were hearing.
Mike Stern is a Berklee Graduate. His first taste of fame came when he joined Blood Sweat & Tears in his early twenties. After leaving Blood Sweat & Tears and performing with Billy Cobham for a while, Mike Stern got a gig playing with Miles Davis. It’s quite a way to start out one’s professional career as a band member playing alongside one of the greatest jazz legends and innovators of all time in Miles Davis.
In 1986, Mike Stern embarked on his solo career releasing his first major label album Upside Downside on Atlantic Records. It was an album that also featured Jaco Pastorius and current Rolling Stones drummer Steve Jordan on the track “Mood Swings.” Since his solo debut album, Mike Stern has released close to twenty studio albums while appearing as a guest artist on dozens of other recordings. He has always been and continues to be one of the most exciting musical performers to see in concert. Simply…..the best!
List Of 10 Jazz Fusion Guitarists That Rock Fans Should Check Out article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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