Jamie Holroyd Guitar

Jamie Holroyd Guitar

4 Great British Jazz Guitarists You Need To Know About

4 Great British Jazz Guitarists You Need To Know About

As a follow up to the ‘4 Obscure Jazz Guitarists You Need to Know’ article I published a few months ago I have decided to write an article on 4 great British jazz guitarists that international readers might not be aware of.

Don’t worry there’s still plenty of great lesser known classic jazz guitarists that I want to write about, but as a British guitarist myself I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and playing with some fantastic musicians that are worth knowing about.

Having played at many of gigs and jams over the years, I’ve met dozens of fantastic players and it would take would take me forever to write about all of them, therefore this entry will focus on the guitarists who mainly play in the straight ahead classic jazz guitar style.


british jazz guitarists

 British Jazz Guitar Legend Terry Smith

Louis Stewart


When it comes to great Irish guitarists, the rockers have Rory Gallagher and the jazzers get Louis Stewart. Although Louis is based in Ireland, he has developed an international recognition as a respected jazz guitarist.

Because Louis rarley plays in the UK I’ve never met or played with him, but I’ve acquired many of his LP’s and CD’s over the years. ‘Louis the First’ is a much sought after out of print vinyl featuring some of Louis finest playing, although Louis himself passes it off as a demo because he never got paid for it!

Luckily there is a wide range of videos of Louis on YouTube that span his entire career, ranging from black and white footage of his early days with Benny Goodman to professionally filmed jazz guitar duet performances with Mundell Lowe and great solo guitar performances that showcase Louis master chordal chops.

The interesting thing about these videos is that they show the strong influence of different jazz guitar greats throughout Louis career such as Pat Martino, Jim Hall and Kenny Burrell. Check out the early clip below of Louis playing with Benny Goodman showing off a strong Kenny Burrell influence.

Louis is an archtop guitar enthusiast, usually seen with a variety of different big bodied Gibson and Guild archtop that producing a thick warm jazz guitar sound.




Adrian Ingram


Readers of this website will probably be aware of Adrian already as he has contributed a lot of information for the articles on this site and is a mentor and inspiration of mine.

Internationally recognized as player, writer and teacher, Adrian has contributed to jazz guitar extensively over the years. Adrian was one of the founders of the popular Just Jazz Guitar Magazine and has written for many guitar magazines and publications over the years, but one of his most famous publications and acclaimed is the definitive biography of Wes Montgomery.

Although Adrian is an endorsed Bendetto player and has acclaimed publications on Gibson jazz guitars (335, 175, L5), he is usually found his playing western swing on telecasters in real ale bars, so if jazz, telecasters and good beer is what you’re into, check him out.

Adrian’s playing draws from a diverse range of guitar heros. On any given gig, Adrian can go from playing like Les Paul to Wes Montgomery by adjusting his technique and controls. Despite being able to emulate different guitar greats, Adrian remains a strong blues and hard bop player in his own right.



Dave Cliff


Dave Cliff has been a prominent figure on the London jazz scene for over 40 years now and has developed a strong reputation as a teacher and player.

Like myself, Dave once studied at the Leeds College of Music in the late 60’s with Bernie Cash and Peter Ind. Upon graduating, Dave moved to London and has since performed with many American jazz greats such as Warne Marsh, Lee Konitz, Nina Simone, Warren Vache, and Scott Hamilton.

Jazz guitar fans are in for a treat because Dave has a couple of albums available that he recorded with jazz guitar great Howard Alden on the Zephyr label which feature a healthy dosage of fine jazz transatlantic guitar playing.

Although Dave owns a nolan period Gibson 175 which he bought new in the early 70’s, he usually plays cheaper guitars on gigs, most notably his Squier Bullet Strat with a humbucker in front proving that tone is in the fingers and not the gear.

Being a big Wes fan, Dave sometimes uses his thumb, but Wes biggest influence in Dave’s playing can be heard in his strong laid back swing feel.



Pat McCarthy


Over on the East Coast one jazz guitarist that always I enjoying listening to is Pat McCarthy. Pat has played with many of the UK’s leading jazz musicians and is involved with running the Grimsby Jazz club. Influenced by Wes, Django, and Barney, Pat is one of the best at capturing the sounds of the classic jazz guitarists.  I’ve only ever seen Pat play an old black ES-150 which seems to be his number 1 guitar.

Check out the video of him bellowing performing an accomplished solo guitar version of All The Things on his old Gibson archtop.



Jim Mullen


To keep this article geographically interesting, the next guitarist is the great Scottish jazz guitar legend Jim Mullen. One aspect of Jim Mullen’s playing that separates him from the other guitarists in this article, is that like the great jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, Jim plays exclusively using his thumb.

Because Jim uses his thumb, his right hand technique is limited so he uses an abundance of guitar techniques such as hammers ons, pull offs, sliding and bending which results in smooth saxophone-like phrasing.

Like Dave Cliff, Jim isn’t into higher end gear and plays an Aria archtop through a small AER amp.

I’ve seen Jim live a few times and had the pleasure of playing with him at the Leeds College of Music. While his playing blew me into the ground, I learned a lot from his workshop and playing, and admired his gesture to the audience for applause after my solo before commencing his own.



Terry Smith


If you were playing guitar in the 60’s and lived in Britain you were most likely absorbing a healthy cocktail of blues, jazz and rock n roll when it was fresh on the scene. Terry Smith is one of the finest British guitarists of this generation and mixed these styles in the fashion of American greats Grant Green and Wes Montgomery.

Having only discovered Terry recently thanks to jazz guitar historian Adrian Ingram, I am still tracking down as many recordings of Terry as I can find, but one CD that I have been listening to on almost a daily basis at the moment is Fallout.

From what I know Terry is still performs around London to this day, but has little to no internet presence. Luckily the liner notes to his album ‘Fallout’ are well written and include personal notes from Terry himself sharing stories about his career.

Terry has remained fond of the Gibson ES-330 aka the Grant Green guitar throughout his career and his Fallout album showcases some of my favourite recorded sounds of the instrument.




Other British Jazz Guitarists


Writing about all the great British jazz guitarists would take numerous articles, but I hope you have enjoyed reading and listening to some of the guitarists who have influenced my playing.

Some other great British jazz guitarists who deserve a mention are Trevor Owen, Ike Issacs, Mike Outram, Chris Walker, Colin Oxley, Mike Walker, Phil Robson, Gary Potter, and Martin Taylor. Of course, I can’t forget some of the greats I studied with such as Jamie Taylor and Pete Skraloff either. If there’s enough interest I’ll write a follow up article on these great guitarists.

Who are some of your favourite British jazz musicians? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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I think you will find that Louis Stewart was born and lives in the Republic of Ireland, so is definitely not British.

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Lyle Robinson

Nice article Jamie. I believe Louis lived in the UK for a while when he was younger so I guess that makes him an honorary Brit :) I will check out these guys in more detail for possible interviews on Jazz Guitar Life. Thanks for the heads up...some really marvelous players!


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Lyle Robinson

Hey Jamie...that would be cool and appreciated :) Take care.


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Ian Burnside

Good to see Martin Taylor in there but his sometimes side-kick John Goldie is certainly worth checking out. John gigs solo, with Martin Taylor and with Spirit of Django, and also tours with his own quartet - The John Goldie Band

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Dave Graham

I attended a concert with Martin Taylor, International Guitar Night, here in Montana, USA. Great concert. His signature Martin Taylor Peerless Maestro, was absolutely beautiful, sounding and looking.

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Peter Rubie

Scottish guitarist Kevin McKenzie. Terrific player.
West coast guitarist Larry Koonse.
Peter Rubie

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Jamil Ghandour

I saw Louis Stewart with Ronnie Scott at Ronnie's ages ago. Super player.

In no particular order: John Etheridge ? Allan Holdsworth ? John McLaughlin ?

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Terry Smith recorded a great organ trio CD 'Tenderly' a couple of years ago - well worth getting:


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Hey Jamie, great article and Louis definitely deserves more recognition, but I must agree with Guy that he's not British. He's Irish through and through, a Waterford man, and as an Irishman myself we don't really like to see our artists/sportspeople being claimed as British (Oscar Wilde, Katie Taylor, etc) but unfortunately it happens quite often. As I'm sure you know we've been independent for years and have a very different culture. You can have Bono if you want though.

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Surprised you left out dave Goldberg, who pre-dated all the other guitarists mentioned.
I've been listening to terry Smith since 1970, when i caught him playing with the great UK jazz-rock band IF at the Fillmore East.
I caught him live again at the Gaslight club, also in NYC, and he was literally on fire the entire night.
He recorded a good jazz LP with the keyboard player Tony Lee in the 70s that I had on cassette tape, but lost in a move.
After IF, he did a lot of nice fusion work with Zzebra, a band he started with Dave Quincy of IF, but he left after their first LP.
He's mentioned quite a bit in the recent John McLaughlin bio, "Bathed In Lightning" by Colin Harper.
His last CD, "Tenderly' was good, but he abandoned his fast plectrum technique to using his thumb.
My fave UK jazz musicians are:
Tubby Hayes
Dick Morrissey (who founded IF with Terry Smith)
Gordon Beck

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London Jazz Fan

Good to find an article about Terry Smith. I know Actone Records released a couple of CDs by Terry - "Third Floor Richard" and the aforementioned "Tenderly". He was also on another CD called "Bittersweet Blue".

Also, Bob Stuckey released a CD called "Night Time Is The Right Time" recorded at late night jams at Ronnie Scott's in the '60s. Terry is on some of the tracks and the others feature another legendary Brit jazz guitarist - Phil Lee

Jamie Holroyd

Thanks for the info. I need to check out some of these albums!

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Marcel from LearnHotGuitar

I'm lucky enough to have seen Louis Stewart twice in the last few years. At first I thought that he wasn't 'as good' as in his younger years but listening to his latest CD it appears that although Louis is not as fast as in his younger years his sense of melody is as strong as ever. A very tasty and articulate guitarist who burns with conviction.

Looking forward to digging into the other players mentioned above. :-)

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I just got the new CD "IF5", which features one of the founders of the band, Terry Smith.
Although this is extremely different from any of the other IF records, Terry gets some nice solo time on the record.
It's more of a light, straight-ahead CD, than the driving , complex time signature, jazz-rock IF used to play, but the guys do get some good blowing time on the disc.

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Elie Kleiman

Greetings. May I suggest you check ESMOND SELWYN out? A Londoner, he now lives in Wales where he pursues a career in teaching and performing. He has a number of records out including Renegade and The Axe which I recommend. His music is essentially post bebop influences and he plays solo guitar with George VanEps technique mixed with McCoy Tyner ideas. You can find him on You Tube, ITunes and also Facebook. Cheers!

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manuel m.franco

SAW -'IF'-LIVE,IN FORT LAUDERDALE,FLA.USA@Broward colledge.I'd been playing-10(?)yrs.at this time,a huge LARRY CORYELL/JOHN MCLAUGHLIN**(a friend-studio cohort,of-no less than:JOHN MCLAUGHLIN!!)Robert Fripp/Alan Holdsworth/-&-!!OLLIE HALLSALL,OF PATTO/TIMEBOX/JON HISEMANS TEMPEST:-) KEVIN AYERS-,FAME.I-KNOW< great gtr.and,Terry Smith,was on fire,that-and the 2nd,nite.Stunning/fiery.both shows.And,on ZZEBRAS 1st cd/LP?,'Mahjons' solo-one of the best I've ever<!!,heard.So glad THAT,'IF'ARE BACK TOGETHER,WITH A NEW CD.DAVE QUINCYS STILL GREAT,TOO.Only 2the rest? Rip,sadly,dam it.New cd has many vg trks.and a few great ones.A,Must buy!!

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