of the 50s, 60s and beyond....

Guitar SOLOS ( of back-up artists)

There were and are many famous singers like Paul Simon or Leonhard Cohen or famous musicians playing other instruments - like Deodato or Jimmy Smith , whose songs made it to the charts - but who knows  the backup artists and their skills ? There are many songs with fantastic guitar solos - and nobody pays credit to those artists who never had their own hits - at least not in those days.

I picked out some of those I ran into - masterpieces in  themselves - just listen to some of the samples and you know what I mean....

Examples taken from Albums by :

1. Deodato

2.  Jimmy Smith

3.  Leonhard Cohen

( to be continued)

Definition of a “solo”the way I see it :

In the course of performing a number ( I hesitate to use the term “song”) there will be a time in which the artist is “on his own” - dominating the performance while the other musicians continue to accompany him. During that time the artist will perform some variations on his instrument which are different and usually very courageous. A good solo can be the culmination of the whole performance.


“Also Sprach Zarathustra”

In 1972 DEODATO recorded with his famous electric piano his version of Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra” - well know to those who saw the movie “2001 Space Odysee”. He was accompanied by quite a few professional musicians - among them JOHN TROPEA on the electric guitar.  

John can boast an impressive array of artists he has played with:

Barbra Streisand "Song Bird"   Paul Simon "Still Crazy" & Best of Simon   Aretha Franklin    Eric Clapton "Journey Man" Alice Cooper,Yoko Ono,Frank Sinatra, James Brown

John Tropea starts his solo after about one third into the song. He kind of sneaks into the song  - only to create an incredible guitar work, mingling with the overall atmosphere - never disturbing the mood of the song - yet giving it a distinct taste of excellency. Enjoy it.

sample of “Also Sprach Zarathustra”:

J. Tropea


“Funky Broadway” and “Get Out Of My Life”

In 1967 Jimmy Smith recorded with his famous Hammond Organ the Album RESPECT - in those days a hit sung by Aritha Franklin. On each of these two songs you can listen to long phaase of real good guitar work. Sometimes the difference between popular music and jazz is hard to tell - to me this type of guitar playing is in its truest sense an “instrumental”.

Jimmy was accompanied by real good professional musicians  ( the drums by Grady Tate and Bernhard Purdie are tenfold better than any drum machine you might hear these days ) As guitarists the names Eric Gale and Thornel Schwartz are mentioned on the album. Try these names in the Internet and you’ll be surprised .  

Thorton Schwartz is mentioned as a backup guitarist so often - so here it would lead too far to go into details.

Eric Gale ( 1938 - 1994) had an appealing sound, specializing in a lazy, melodic blues.He was well known in the 70s and did isolated tracks on various albums.

Both numbers by T.Schwartz and E.Gale turned Jimmy Smith’s album into a treasure for me. Here are samples of exactly those parts, in which the guitar takes over the major part.

Eric Gale

You'll need RealAudio Player to play the sound clips

sample of “Funky Broadway”:

sample of “Get Out Of My Life”:


“Like A Bird On A Wire” and “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Good Bye”

Have you ever been to a concert of Leonhard Cohen ? Grated - this is not instrumental territory. But - listen to his band and you will hear excellent guitat work - not only folk-type stuff but real good instrumental music !

Here are two examples, taken from concerts. The name of the guitarist was only mentioned after his solo : Tony Mascaro

I think you’ll enjoy the guitar as well - only wish it was longer...

guitar solo of “Like a Bird On The Wire”

guitar solo of “Hey, That’s No Way TO Say Goo Bye”: