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George Van Eps

George Van Eps was a quiet legend among jazz guitarists, one who as far back as the 1930s pioneered a harmonically sophisticated chordal/lead style that was eclipsed in influence by the single-string idioms of Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt. Yet Van Eps, like his brassy colleague Les Paul, also stood apart from them as an iconoclastic inventor, designing a seven-string guitar in the late '30s that adds an extra bass string. Thus, Van Eps was able to play basslines simultaneously with chords and lead solos, a jazz equivalent of fingerpicking country guitarists like Merle Travis and Chet Atkins. Van Eps puckishly referred to his style of playing as "lap piano," and his seven-string guitar has been adopted by a select few figures like Howard Alden and Bucky and John Pizzarelli.

Van Eps came from a talented musical family; his father Fred was a famous master of the ragtime banjo and a sound engineer, his mother played the piano, and he had three brothers, Bobby, Freddy, and John, who were also professional musicians. Self-taught on the banjo, Van Eps began playing professionally at 11, and after falling under the influence of Eddie Lang two years later, he learned the guitar well enough to play alongside Lang for six months as a teenager. From there, Van Eps worked with Freddy Martin (1931-1933), Benny Goodman (1934-1935), and Ray Noble (1935-1936) before moving to Hollywood to become a freelance musician, author of a how-to guitar book, and instrument designer. After returning to Noble in 1940-1941, Van Eps worked in his father's recording lab for two years before returning to the freelance arena, where, among other things, he worked for Paul Weston and took part in the 1950s film and TV series Pete Kelly's Blues.

Van Eps only made a handful of recordings as a leader or unaccompanied soloist, including Mellow Guitar (Columbia, 1956) and My Guitar, George Van Eps' Seven-String Guitar and Soliloquy for Capitol in the late '60s. A bout of serious illness in the early '70s, plus a 1977 hand injury that resulted in three broken fingers, reduced his activities. However, Van Eps returned to the studio in 1991 for the first of three exquisite duo albums for Concord Jazz with his former student Howard Alden, mixing venerable standards with a few Van Eps originals, and he shared a solo guitar album with Johnny Smith in 1994. Even in his eighties, he remained an eloquent exponent of easygoing modern swing. George Van Eps died of pneumonia on November 29, 1998. ~ Richard S. Ginell
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: John Pisano's Guitar Night

Disc 1

1. I'll Never Be The Same

2. The Blues(Live)

3. I Want To Be Happy

4. Good Bait (Live)

5. When Sunny Gets Blue (Live)

6. Rosetta

7. Whisper Not

8. My One And Only Love

Disc 2
x

Track List: Progressions: 100 Years Of Jazz Guitar

Disc 1

2. Chain Gang Blues

5. Add A Little Wiggle

10. Danzon

11. China Boy

13. Swingin' On The Strings

15. Guitar Swing

17. Whispering

19. Little Rock Getaway

26. Red Cross

Disc 2

3. What Is This Thing Called Love

4. Body And Soul

7. Mountain Melody

8. Yardbird Suite

9. The Boy Next Door

10. Tocata

13. Bluesette

14. Midnight Blue

15. Unit 7

17. Move

18. Easy Living

19. Jean De Fleur

20. Night And Day

Disc 3

1. Clockwise

2. Just Friends

3. A Taste Of Honey

4. How Insensitive

5. Gypsy Queen

6. June 15, 1967

7. As We Used To Sing

8. Should Be Reversed

9. Manic Depression

10. Birds Of Fire

11. Coral

12. Ralph's Piano Waltz

13. The Prowler

14. Bright Size Life

15. Aqui, Oh! (Check This Out)

16. Midnight In San Juan

Disc 4

3. Thumper

5. Captain Fingers

7. Race With Devil On Spanish Highway

8. Cause We've Ended As Lovers

9. Church

10. Ron Carter

11. Hottentot

Comments

Report as inappropriate
jc.griff
How do we get George on here?
Report as inappropriate
I agree with bobbyc13576 - where's the Bio of this incredibly talented gentleman? HELLO? Anyone listening?
Report as inappropriate
bobbyc13576
Not even a note on this amazing guitarist who invented the 7 string guitar in 1939,and is revered by all the other great guitarists all over the world,I find this at the very least..... odd.

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