John Sykes (Whitesnake album) - That album is my all time favorite hard rock album. Between John and Dave, that album is untouchable. I don't know what the official record sales are but John's work was unbelievably spectacular and deserves a grammy. Too bad those could not get along over time. Dave obviously got what he needed from John. I can only hope it was reciprocal. John's work on the Blue Murder album was also great. Until this album, I did not realize John had such a strong singing voice and I certainly did not know he had the capacity to play some ripping guitar riffs while singing full verse and chorus.
Jeff Beck - What an inspiration! I write quite a bit of instrumental music and sometimes I feel like for popularity sake, I need to throw some lyrics in there. Whenever I listen to Jeff Beck play I can see where lyrics would never fit into his music as there is no need. I love everything about his style from his fingerstyle tone production to his volume swells and clever melodies. Here is a great video which not only highlights Jeff Beck's guitar collection but also his friendly demeanor and humorous personality.
Eddie Van Halen - A Pioneer which pushed the envelope of electric guitar to a new level (much like Paganini did for the Violin - although the level of virtuosity is completely different). I can't even estimate how much time I spent listening to Van Halen albums through the decades. I cannot pick one favorite album because they are all my favorites. Van Halen, Van Halen II, Women and Children First, Fair Warning, Diver Down are my top favs while 5150, OU812, and the Carnal Knowledge albums are my next favs.
Matthias Jabs - Known for his lead guitar work with the Scorpions (and his 90% sized Gibson Explorer). Some of the best melodic guitar leads in the industry. His work is like good cooking (food) - it does not require OVER seasoning and he plays it all just right.
Ted Greene (in actionand here) - You have to see this guy to believe it is only one person playing. Also, he plays Jazz on a 1954 Fender Esquire which seems odd. Listening to him play is relaxing and daunting at the same time. If you just listen, you will be surrounded by beautiful music. If you watch him, you will be astonished. I want to joke with him by saying, "Wait Ted, what was that first chord again....?"
Ritchie Blackmore (mostly Deep Purple days) - Back in the 80's my hard rock music taste was growing and when I heard "Knocking at your Back Door" I was hooked. I would listen to the syndicated weekly radio program just so I could hear that tune. His new stuff with Blackmore's Night is also cool. While it is obviously off the modern mainstream "beaten path", it reminds me of my music major days in college. Still great music and great guitar work.
Django Reinhardt (with Stephane Grappelli) - Holy Moly! The two-fingered wonder. Django only had two functioning fingers on his left hand (index and middle) due to a permanent injury from a fire accident. When you hear him play you would think he has ten fingers doing all the work. To me, he seems like the epitome of "mind over matter".
Andres Segovia - A pioneer of the classical guitar. He specifically wanted to establish classical guitar as a style vastly different from flamenco guitar (as commonly found in his native country). I have to say - mission accomplished! He also commissioned several classical guitar works from composers which obivously expanded the instrument's repertoire. The best of the best.
Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad) - I used to love to listen to the Grand Funk Railroad live album. This three piece band was a powerhouse of sound.
Joe Pass - Great Jazz player and educator. I love the live recordings which were often times one guitar and a microphone.
George Lynch (during Dokken days on "Under Lock and Key" and "Tooth and Nail") - I thought those two albums were fabulous and it was George Lynch and the recording engineering which really pushed me to use rack mounted effects directly in my signal chain and ultimately end up with a rack-based rig. Thanks to George and the sound engineers/producers!
Jake E. Lee (during Ozzy days) - I really enjoyed The Ultimate Sin work and creativity. I also believe that just because an album did not bust the pop charts that should not drive your decision to get rid of a fabulously creative and talented guitarist. Anyhow, I really enjoy Jake's massive focus on intricate rhythm sections and solo phrasing (for example). His mix of melodic lines with classical arpeggio patterns is sweet. Also, his two handed octave work on Killer of Giants did not occur in the metal realm before or after Jake did it. Therefore, another pioneer. I've got to add one more comment about "Fool Like You" - what a cool intro using harmonics. Side notes: Long ago, I even repainted my Charvel Model 6 to a deep metal flake blue to look like JEL on the Killer of Giants video. In more recent years, I also opted for white guitar body color because I liked Jake's white Charvel and his white SG. He is one of the best loud rockers.
Warren Demartini (during Ratt days) - I loved Ratt based on the hip grooves and awesome guitar work by Warren. His phrasing/lines were awesome. I also kind of like the whole glam band thing mixed with his talent because it brought the pretty girls around and I could listen to an awesome musician - the perfect combo. This guy inspired many other players and unless you are a true rock/metal guitar aficionado, you might not know who this guy is. Much of Jake E. Lee's motivation came from Warren's competitive nature. Also, think about George Lynch's fret vibrato... I don't know which one of these guys came up with that first but I can tell you that Warren had this technique and many other technique mastered. Much of the music of Ratt pushed the guitar players into the background which is unfortunate to me. When Warren finally gets released out of the rhythm cage, he really shines. His ubiquitous use of sixteenth note sextuplets is evident in almost every solo he plays yet, it is never boring or repetitive. I also have to add that I believe that Warren was held prisoner in Ratt and could have really shown us some more dazzling output if he had a different band.
Stanley Jordan - This two hand tapping wonder is incredible. You have to watch this. I used to watch him on a late night television Jazz program and was mesmerized by his technique and his interpretations.
Vitto Bratta (in White Lion) - Great tone and taught me how to incorporate chord-inversions-in-motion into the rock realm.
Steve Vai (mostly DLR albums) - The David Lee Roth band was a big career booster for Dave, Steve, Billy and Gregg. Vai's solo album works is great and greatly appreciated. When I first heard him play, I could not help but compare him to EVH due to the fill-in role with DLR but Steve obviously had a style of his own and his crazy fingerboard antics expanded my horizon of the possibilities for the guitar (ex. Shy Boy by B. Sheehan). Also, I can't help myself by saying that even though the DLR Skyscraper album was obviously a pop chart compilation, I believe Vai put a good spin on it and kept it moving in the direction of guitar-oriented.
Yngwie J. Malmsteen - When I first heard YJM on Blackstar I almost fell over. In fact, I might have fallen over. This pioneer snapped me either into reality or out of it. I'm still trying to decide which one. I went to hear him play at the Masquerade in Atlanta, GA back in the 90's and I walked up to YJM's guitar tech and started taking about YJM's guitars. I asked a question about the fingerboard radius and the guitar tech said, "I don't know" and then grabbed one of YJM's guitars from the row and immediately handed it to me. I thought, "Holy Crap! I am playing one of YJM's guitars which he is about to go use on stage." In hindsight, the guitar tech probably handed me a backup of a backup of a backup guitar...
Joe Satriani - Surfing with the Alien was a delightful change of pace for me. Another instrumental album which proved to me that it can be accomplished and successful. For my taste, the rhythm guitars sounded too simple and fuzzy tone quality yet, I am basing my judgment on mega-quality production albums such as Whitesnake or Master of Puppets (Metallica). I realize Joe was (literally) poor at the time and that was his starter project funded by a $5K limit credit card. His audio engineering obviously skyrocketed on subsequent projects. Several things I find particularly interesting about Joe are his obvious trademark antics with pinched harmonics, chorded tremolo bar dives, and synchronized hot licks. Also, his combined use of volume pot reduction - melodic, almost story telling kind of phrases/lines, and development of a theme from simple/lyrical to full blown, rip roaring boiling shredding is out of this world (hence, the album title). I also like his subtle use of Wah pedal. Sometimes I don't even realize how frequently he uses his Wah pedal because it is subtle and it sounds like such a natural part of his tone production and playing style. Obviously a pioneer player and educator.
Bill Lawrence - If you have never had the chance to meet Bill Lawrence then you are missing out on a historic moment. Bill is an interesting character that I cannot describe in writing. His dedication to the guitar pickup industry is rivaled only by a handful of other people. Also, to hear him play a Strat is to take a walk through history. He will go from jazz lines to old spanish balads and finally as he unassertively pays homage to his homeland (Germany), he will transition into playing the Violin Concerto for two violins (D minor). See for yourself.
Brent Mason - Wow! What a picker. When I first heard him play on Allen Jackson records I was blown away. Here is his gear rundown.
Wes Montgomery - Jazz guitarist pionner! I am no Jazz player. Honestly, for me, they change chords too quickly and I have never pursued that art form. Watch him in action here.
Bassists (in random order)
Jaco Pastorius - This guy was out of this world. Put on Weather Report Heavy Weather album and expand your mind. This guy played a stringed instrument which just happened to be a 4 string bass. His lines are so lyrical it makes you forget he is the bass player. Unbelievable!
Billy Sheehan - OMG!!! Another player that is so inspirational that you don't think of him as a "bass player". I put him in the same creativity and inspirational category as Jaco Pastorius and think of him as a mature and virtuosic musician. I totally dig his dual sound setup which is basically a lead channel mixed with a clean bass channel. How creative!
Geddy Lee - Another phenominal player. This guy I consider a bass player and not as lyrical and boundless as Jaco and Billy. That does not mean that Geddy is underated or lacking talent. It simply means that, for the most part, he stays in the groove of the bassline and focuses simultaneously on singing. He is, after all, the front man for RUSH.
Victor Wooten - This guy inspired me out of the gate back in the day and I found his thumping technique to be very impressive. Since then, I have watched him on several videos and find his lead lines to be just as impressive as his bass lines.
Russ Rodgers - Russ was my bass instructor for about 4 months and during this time, he knocked my brain into gear in ways that no one else had done prior. In fact, I was baffled for quite a while as I absorbed his instructional materials. Several of our lesson times were spent jamming over some common tunes to include the sound track to the hit TV show "TAXI".
Jonas Hellborg - Wow. Talk about expanding the tonal range of the bass guitar. This guy has quite an interpretation of the bass clef and everything near it.
Tal Wilkenfeld - I heard her play with Jeff Beck on a youtube video. This gal is great and not only has great fretboard skills, she also really paints a picture with her note choice and gives the listener true art to enjoy.
Violinists (in random order)
Niccoló Paganini - A pioneer who changed the course of history for violin and other instruments. Technical prowess to win all technical competitions. Obviously lacked the ability to slow down and stop to smell the roses. I would prefer more of a mix between melodic and technical affluence.
Viktoria Mullova - Inspired me to start playing the Violin back in 1991. I rented a video from my local library (Douglasville, GA) and it was Viktoria playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. I thought to myself, "That looks like fun!"
Itzhak Perlman - Unbelievable! Inspired me to strive to become a soloist. Great personality to boot. Also inspired me quite a bit as I too was crippled for one year of my life and for that one year I could identify with Mr. Perlman's physical challenge of the legs.
Jasha Heifetz - A phenomenal virtuoso - The quintessential example of intense focus combined with precision accuracy. Oddly enough, I detect a bit of rushing in his tempo with orchestral accompaniment. I believe his father reprimanded him for rushing tempo early in his career.
Yehudi Menuhin - Inspired me as he was a Prodigy, a life-long successful Artist and Humanitarian - Through his writings he taught me how "grabby" human hands are and how we usually squeeze our thumbs too hard. He also taught me the value of stretching, good habits, rest and the value of not selfishly over-indulging oneself in a performance. He also learned to how to speak several languages.
Zino Francescatti - Unbelievable Paganini and Saint-Saëns interpretations. I have some live recordings that I thought were confined studio recordings until the end of the pieces with the audience applauding - I was shocked!.
David Oistrak - I like his appearance of ease of playing. His tone is also so full and warm.
Isaac Stern - One of the best intonations, ever. I also like his cheap foam shoulder pad. I also use a pad like that in combination with my shoulder for instrument support.
Nathan Milstein - Inspired me to continue investigating and experimenting playing without under-supporting the instrument with all kinds of shoulder rest contraptions
Pinchas Zukerman - Interpretations of W.A. Mozart are unsurpassed, bar none
Anne Sophie-Mutter - I enjoy her passion especially with romantic era compositions
Hilary Hahn - Interpretations of J.S. Bach are unsurpassed, bar none (including Heifetz and Perlman)
David Garrett - Strikes me as very agile and nimble. He apparently enjoys more contemporary/pop music mixed into his repertoire.
Fiddlers (in random order)
Stephane Grappelli, Mark O'conner, Justin Williamson (w/ Brad Paisley), Despite my hailing from Georgia I am not a Charlie Daniels fan (nor am I a fan of "The Devil went down to GA") - Although, he has earned a respected "tip of the hat" from me, several other Country recording artists.
"Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference." - Mark Twain
"Sometimes I let my mind run it, sometimes I let me ears run it, and sometimes I let my fingers run it." - Herbie Hancock
"To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable." - Ludwig van Beethoven