What's Hot With Jazz Guitar: Howard Alden

by Doc Dosco

This week we are featuring jazz guitarist Howard Alden. I caught Howard
at John Pisano's Guitar Night here in LA a while ago and he is
certainly something special.

Online Bio:

"He may be the best of his generation," writes Owen Cordle in JazzTimes.
George Kanzler of the Newark Star Ledger proclaims that he is "the most
impressive and creative member of a new generation of jazz guitarists."
And Chip Deffaa of the New York Post observes that he is "...one of the
very finest young guitarists working today." It seems that the only
thing regarding Howard Alden on which the critics have debate is whether
the remarkable jazz guitarist is one of the best or simply the best.

Born in Newport Beach, California, in 1958, Howard began playing at age
ten, inspired by recordings of Armstrong, Basie and Goodman, as well as
those by guitarists Barney Kessel, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt
and George Van Eps. Soon he was working professionally around Los
Angeles playing in groups ranging from traditional to mainstream to
modern jazz. In 1979, Alden went east, for a summer in Atlantic City
with Red Norvo, and continued to perform with him frequently for several

Upon moving to New York City in 1982, Alden's skills, both as soloist
and accompanist, were quickly recognized and sought-out for appearances
and recordings with such artists as Joe Bushkin, Ruby Braff, Joe
Williams, Warren Vache` and Woody Herman. He has continued to win
accolades from critics and musicians alike, adding Benny Carter, Flip
Phillips, Mel Powell, Bud Freeman, Kenny Davern, Clark Terry, Dizzy
Gillespie and George Van Eps, as well as notable contemporaries such as
Scott Hamilton and Ken Peplowski to his list of impressive credits.

Howard Alden has been a Concord Jazz recording artist since the late
'80s where his prolific recorded output as leader, co-leader, and
versatile sideman, has captured an artist of consistently astonishing
virtuosity and originality. One of the many highlights in Howard Alden's
fruitful association with Concord Jazz came in 1991 when, at the urging
of Concord President, Carl Jefferson, Alden recorded with one of his
all-time heroes, seven-string guitar master George Van Eps on the album
Thirteen Strings (CCD-4464).

As a result of his associating with - and inspiration from - George Van
Eps, Alden has been playing the seven-string guitar exclusively since
1992. The seven string guitar imparts a greater range and harmonic
richness to Alden's already colorful tonal palette, as evidenced on
three remarkable follow-up albums with Van Eps, his critically acclaimed
duo recordings with saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Peplowski, and the
stunning interplay between Alden and special guest Frank Wess on Your
Story - The Music of Bill Evans (CCD-4621). Alden also teamed up with
fellow guitarists Jimmy Bruno and Frank Vignola to record a three guitar
outing entitled The Concord Jazz Guitar Collective (CCD-4672), which was
quickly called by some critics "an instant classic!"

Alden's recording from 1996 Take Your Pick (CCD-4743-2) serves to
underline Howard's wide scope of knowledge of jazz literature. Thoughout
the disc, one is amazed at how skillfully Alden delivers interpretations
with fresh surprises. Michael Moore, Bill Goodwin, Lew Tabackin, and
Renee Rosnes combine with Alden to bring exciting interplay and thrills
around every corner to the ten standard and lesser known gems hand
picked for this recording. Released in honor of Concord's 25th
anniversary was a duo recording with Jimmy Bruno, Full Circle
(CCCD2-4788-2) teamed with the very first Concord recording Jazz/
Concord featuring Herb Ellis and Joe Pass.

Howard can be heard on the soundtrack to the 1999 Woody Allen movie
"Sweet and Low Down", starring Sean Penn, who was also nominated for an
Academy Award for his role as a legendary jazz guitarist in the '30s.
Howard not only played all the guitar solos, but also coached Mr. Penn
on playing the guitar for his role in the film. The London Observer has
this to say about Alden's new solo CD, My Shining Hour; "If there is
such a thing as a complete jazz guitarist, then Alden is it. Only a real
virtuoso can sustain a whole CD of solo guitar with the aplomb he
displays here."

Howard Alden was voted "Best Emerging Talent-Guitar" in the first annual
JazzTimes critics' poll, 1990, and "Talent Deserving Wider Recognition"
in the 1996, 1992, 1993 and 1995 Downbeat critics' poll. As jazz critic
Wayne Thompson writes simply, in Jazzscene, "If there are better young
jazz guitar players in America than Howard Alden, I have yet to hear
them." Howard's growing base of loyal fans couldn't agree more.

Howard's website:


Doc Dosco is a jazz guitarist, composer and audio consultant living in Los Angeles, CA. His website is located at http://www.docdosco.com, where you can find more information on the 'What's Hot with Jazz Guitar' columns, audio clips of Doc's playing, and many additional features. Doc endorses Heritage Guitars and is featured artist on their website. He also endorses the new Pignose Valve Tube Amps -- great for jazz (and anything else!)

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