Bill Frisell

The defining characteristic of any given jazz musician is frequently his sound. The more control a player has over the nature of that sound, the more likely he is to project a distinctive musical personality. For example, a saxophonist has virtually unlimited physical control of the sound that comes through his horn, and therefore a wide range of tonal expression at his command, which partially explains the disproportionate number of saxophonists in the pantheon of great jazz musicians. On the other hand, few electric guitarists inhabit that realm, in part because the typical jazz guitar sound differs little from player to player. In general, guitarists do not have the same degree of physical control. Without the use of signal processing -- which jazz purists shun -- they're mostly stuck with the generic sound that comes out of their amp. Hence, guitarists have historically tended to "sound" more or less the same.