DISTORTING JAZZ GUITAR: DISTORTION AS EFFECT, CREATIVE TOOL AND EXTENSION OF THE INSTRUMENT
Abstract: Notions of aesthetic ‘purity’, tradition, nostalgia and identity are at the core of how traditionalists ascribe identity and authenticity to jazz guitar. To talk about the development of the electric guitar without discussing distortion is impossible and yet discourse rarely places emphasis on the developing use of effects and technology in jazz guitar culture specifically. While often met with disdain from traditionalists, distortion is now one of many devices which have enabled traditional notions of performative/compositional devices to be expanded, extending the creative possibilities for jazz guitar improvisers and composers.
This paper will explore the changing landscape of jazz guitar as viewed through the prism of distortion, production and wider notions of the emergence of a post-modern jazz ‘guitarscape’ more aligned with the progressive, which embraces technology, and by extension distortion, as part of its identity. A reimagined history will be built into a narrative across the development of jazz guitar to demonstrate the many ways distortion has been used both as an aesthetic effect and as a creative tool in and of itself, how creatives may adopt such practices, and finally how embracing a modernist approach is crucial in enabling the progressive and developmental elements which define jazz guitar culture today.
Bio: Dr. Tom Williams is a jazz guitarist, lecturer and musicologist specialising in improvisation, cognition, jazz and pedagogy. His PhD Strategy in Contemporary Jazz Improvisation; (University of Surrey, UK 2017) created a detailed cognitive and contextual model of how expert level improvisers develop and use their craft in the moment of performance. Tom is a senior lecturer at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford, Surrey;