Swing Guitar

Dedicated to pre-bebop jazz guitar.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Allan Reuss - Rhythm Revealed

Allan Reuss is possibly my favorite guitar player. Allan played with the Benny Goodman band at its height from 1935-1938, reportedly taught Freddie Green, learned from George Van Eps, played one of the swing era's only real guitar features - "Pickin' for Patsy", and went on to do session work in LA in the mid-40's. There are some links in an earlier post to some samples of Allan Reuss' chordal solo work. Those are essential listening for learning to play chordal solos. But besides being a standout chordal soloists, Allan Reuss played fantastic rhythm guitar. Hearing 4-beat rhythm work, however, is usually impossible. But there's one example where you hear Allan loud and clear:

Kay Starr - The Complete Lamplighter Recordings 1945-1946.


I found out about this record from Whit Smith's recommendations on the Hot Club of Cowtown website. The record mainly features a series of sessions recorded in Los Angeles in 1945-1946. The rhythm section for most of the tracks is Zutty Singleton on drums, Red Callender on bass, and our boy Allan Reuss on guitar. The best part is that you can hear Allan well the whole time. There are several great chordal intros and interludes, but the real star is Allan playing rhythm over Zutty and Red. Top it off with Barney Bigard, Vic Dickenson, et al, and you've got some great tunes.

If you aren't sure what a swing rhythm section sounds like ... Zutty, Red and Allan Reuss is just about perfect.


  • At 9:02 PM, Anonymous swingbob said…

    I have been looking for examples of good rhythm guitar, so I ordered the Reuss/Starr CD and am looking forward to its arrival. Thanks for the recommendation. It's funny that, while some instrumentalists transcribe whole solos note-for-note, rhythm guitarists get excited when they can just actually hear a few bars of comping. I'm a big fan of some of the old Eddie Condon groups, and I remember one of the Jazzology Town Hall Concerts CDs where the original radio recording engineer obviously miked his guitar way too loud by accident for the opening number, almost drowning out the soloists. I almost jumped out of my chair! For once you could really hear, as opposed to sense, him driving the band rhythmically. It was something of an education. If you ever want to check it out, it's the tune "I Found a New Baby" on the Town Hall Concerts, Volume 2.
    Interesting stuff on your site. Thanks.

  • At 11:41 AM, Blogger Jonathan Stout said…

    Fantastic! I'll have to check that out. When I get around to it, I'll have to point out some examples of other tunes where you can clearly hear the rhythm guitar. Better yet, I should put up some sound samples.

  • At 11:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Is Allan Reuss still alive?

  • At 9:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    No, died back in the 1988. He had long been retired from music and never even thought of playing guitar or music and didn't miss either. He also recorded some great intro and breaks with Teddy Wilson in 1939, as well as the Corky Corcoran radio broadcasts which feature entire solos.

  • At 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Should also note that Allan was the guitarist with Goodman during the Carnegie Hall concert. Once Reuss left the band it didn't sound the same. Someone had mentioned in an interview that they didn't realize how integral his beat was to the swinging sound of that band. Benny replied "I didn't either until he left." (Good) rhythm in swing bands makes all the difference in the world, either big or small.

    He also recorded slight amplified with Peck's Bad Boys, a studio band with electric slide guitar. One track was released, the rest were not, but I've heard test pressings of the other three tracks and they kill.

  • At 7:27 PM, Blogger James said…

    Thank you so much for the site. I was introduced to Reuss' playing by Marty Grosz, and I have been hooked ever since. I have transcribed his solos on "If I Could Be With You..." and on "Bye, Bye, Blues" which is just impossible to play at tempo. I also started to transcribe his comping on Harry James' "Just You, Just Me". The mix on this radio broadcast allows a glimpse of the subtle perfection of his rhythm playing. I'll try to post these somewhere. (Sibelius).

    It remains a mystery to me how he produced his sound, and unmistakable, driving rhythm. The youtube clips of "Sing, Sing, Sing" and others show the precise "chop" that must contribute to the sound. The voicings, and subtle movement within the chord changes are superb. His playing is instantly recognizable on the Goodman and other sides. Can't wait to hear the Kay Starr.

  • At 6:03 AM, Blogger Rory G said…

    Hi, I'm trying to find an Allan Reuss version of Infirmary Blues, possibly St James IB. It was on a late night foreign radio channel and the only words heard in English were 'Allan Reuss Infirmary Blues'. I can't find it anywhere, maybe you know the tune? many thanks.

  • At 5:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    Check out the comments about the "annoying rhythm guitar..."
    Some people just don't get it!


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