Os­car Moore

With his ex­pres­sive solo­ing voice and sen­si­tive ac­com­pa­ny­ing style the Nat King Cole Trio’s gui­tarist leaves John Wheatcroft in awe.

Guitar Techniques - - LEARNING ZONE -

Os­car Moore was a su­perb gui­tarist with a melodic and ex­pres­sive solo­ing voice and a sen­si­tive and sup­port­ive ac­com­pa­ny­ing style to boot. While his re­sume in­cludes jazz leg­ends such as Lionel Hamp­ton, Art Ta­tum and Lester Young was im­pres­sive enough, he was best known as a core mem­ber of Nat King Cole’s trio be­tween 1937 and 1947 and his play­ing was, and con­tin­ues to be, held in ex­tremely high re­gard from play­ers such as Bar­ney Kes­sel, Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass and John Piz­zarelli.

Moore was raised in Austin, Texas, but was drawn to Cal­i­for­nia in the early ‘30s by its grow­ing ses­sion scene. His con­tri­bu­tion to the suc­cess of Nat’s trio can’t be over­stated, with each tune en­hanced by one of Os­car’s per­fectly-crafted vir­tu­oso jazz gui­tar so­los. Cole was no slouch on the pi­ano him­self, and cou­pled with his vel­vet voice, it’s no sur­prise that he and the trio would be­come one of the most pop­u­lar jazz com­bos in coun­try.

In 1947, Nat and the trio were at the peak of their suc­cess. They had a Num­ber One record and Os­car had also picked up the Down Beat Gui­tarist of the Year Award for three years straight. How­ever, dis­agree­ments over the di­rec­tion of the group, both fi­nan­cially and mu­si­cally, led to Moore’s de­ci­sion to quit and pur­sue other mu­si­cal op­tions. Un­for­tu­nately for Os­car, none of th­ese projects ever re­ally came to fruition and he re­tired from mu­sic in the early 1950s.

It’s amaz­ing that Moore’s play­ing is not so well known. He re­ally is fan­tas­tic. While you can hear the in­flu­ence of both Char­lie Chris­tian and Django Rein­hardt in his style, which could never be con­sid­ered a bad thing, he has a clear mu­si­cal per­son­al­ity with an un­canny knack of cre­at­ing the per­fect part to el­e­vate an ar­range­ment with in­tel­li­gence, clar­ity and mu­si­cal in­ge­nu­ity. You can learn a great deal from study­ing his record­ings and while he does have his mo­ments of flash, most of his lines are ac­ces­si­ble for the as­pir­ing tran­scriber helped by his clear ar­tic­u­la­tion and su­per ac­cu­rate time-feel. Moore’s rock solid rhythm was such an as­set to the group, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the line-up fea­tured just bass, pi­ano, gui­tar and no drum­mer.

What fol­lows are nine of the best Moore mu­sic mo­ments, typ­i­cal of the kind of things he might play with the trio. His rhythm play­ing was the envy of his peers, so per­haps this is an area we could re­visit at some point in the fu­ture. In the mean­time, revel in the glory of his mas­ter­ful play­ing and add a touch of fi­nesse, au­then­tic­ity and class to your own work by get­ting th­ese ideas un­der your fin­gers and into your imag­i­na­tion.


NEXT MONTH John in­tro­duces the ‘wide in­ter­val’ jazz solo­ing style of the great Joe Diorio

Nat King Cole with Johnny Miller on bass and Os­car Moore on gui­tar

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