I first listened to the following albums during my youth and their initial influence has been everlasting.
Listed below in chronological sequence by recording date:
1. Charlie Christian - Solo Flight
Upon hearing Christian's solos on these tracks which were recorded circa 1939-1941, one can appreciate how far ahead of his time he was, especially when considering that modern jazz guitar playing as we know it today, certainly as it is played on the electric guitar, was virtually nonexistent at the time. It is further astonishing that Christian had such musical maturity for one so young (he died on March 2, 1942 at the age of 23). His compositions like "Seven Come Eleven" and "Air Mail Special" have been particularly popular among other guitarists, and he was arguably the most influential jazz guitarist of all time, serving as the inspiration to all who followed.
2. Johnny Smith - Moonlight In Vermont
Recorded circa 1952, this collection contains some of the most gorgeous chord melody playing I have ever heard. The title track is a jazz guitar classic and features Smith's tight closed voicings and three octave arpeggios. The other tracks are equally stunning. Upon hearing this album one can understand why Barney Kessel said of Smith "As far as I'm concerned, no one in the world plays the guitar better than he." No argument here.
3. Tal Farlow - The Return Of Tal Farlow/1969
His blazing solo on "Straight, No Chaser" is characteristic of his "poppin' and burnin'" trademark. His rendition of "My Romance" is a jazz guitar classic. It features his signature voicings during the solo guitar intro, and his uncanny ability to improvise harmonic solos. Tal Farlow was universally regarded as one of the most original, influential, and respected jazz guitarists of all time, truly a guitarist's guitarist. I am proud to say he was also my teacher.
4. Joe Pass - Intercontinental
Recorded circa 1970, this is a guitar trio (guitar, bass, and drums) recording at its finest. Pass's single note lines and chordal passages are sometimes bluesy ("I Cover The Waterfront", "Joe's Blues", "Li'l Darlin"), sometimes burning ("I Love You"), and sometimes just swinging easily ("Stompin At The Savoy", "Watch What Happens"), but are always beautiful, inventive, and virtuosic. Drummer Kenny Clare's
supportive brushwork blends in beautifully with Pass's warm, round, mellow tone.
5. Joe Pass - Virtuoso
Released in 1974, and performed almost entirely on acoustic guitar, Pass dazzles the listener with his solo guitar renditions as he alternates effortlessly between single notes, chords, and walking bass lines, in tempo and rubato. He was unquestionably one of the greatest jazz guitarists of all time.