Home Forums Guitar News Weekly Guitar News Weekly Archive What’s Hot With Jazz Guitar: Howard Alden

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    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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