“He may be the best of his generation,” writes Owen Cordle in JazzTimes. George Kanzler of the Newark Star Ledger proclaims that he is “the most impressive and creative member of a new generation of jazz guitarists.” And Chip Deffaa of the New York Postobserves that he is “…one of the very finest young guitarists working today.”
Born in Newport Beach, California in 1958, Howard began playing at age ten, inspired by recordings of Armstrong, Basie and Goodman, as well as those by guitarists Barney Kessel, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt and George Van Eps. Soon he was working professionally around Los Angeles playing in groups ranging from traditional to mainstream to modern jazz. In 1979, Alden went east for a summer in Atlantic City with Red Norvo, and continued to perform with him frequently for several years.
Upon moving to New York City in 1982, Alden’s skills, both as soloist and accompanist, were quickly recognized and sought out for appearances and recordings with such artists as Joe Bushkin, Ruby Braff, Joe Williams, Warren Vaché and Woody Herman. He has continued to win accolades from critics and musicians alike, adding Benny Carter, Flip Phillips, Mel Powell, Bud Freeman, Kenny Davern, Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie and George Van Eps, as well as notable contemporaries such as Scott Hamilton and Ken Peplowski to his list of impressive credits.
Howard Alden has been a prolific Concord Jazz recording artist since the late ’80s. One of the many highlights in Howard Alden’s fruitful association with Concord Jazz came in 1991 when, at the urging of Concord President, Carl Jefferson, Alden recorded with one of his all-time heroes, seven-string guitar master George Van Eps on the album Thirteen Strings.
As a result of his association with—and inspiration from—George Van Eps, Alden has been playing the seven-string guitar exclusively since 1992. The seven-string guitar imparts a greater range and harmonic richness to Alden’s already colorful tonal palette.
Howard can be heard on the soundtrack to the 1999 Woody Allen movie Sweet and Lowdown starring Sean Penn, who was also nominated for an Academy Award for his role as the legendary (but fictional!) jazz guitarist in the ’30s, “Emmett Ray.” Howard not only played all the guitar solos, but also coached Mr. Penn on playing the guitar for his role in the film.
The London Observer has this to say about Alden’s solo CD, My Shining Hour: “If there is such a thing as a complete jazz guitarist, then Alden is it. Only a real virtuoso can sustain a whole CD of solo guitar with the aplomb he displays here.” In 2004 Howard was the guitarist and musical director chosen for an all-star line-up commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival, touring 50 cities of the United States in addition to their appearance at the Newport Festival. The 2005-2006 season saw Howard adding his acoustic guitar voice to violinist Mark O’Connor’s Hot Swing on his national concert tour.
Howard Alden was voted “Best Emerging Talent-Guitar” in the first annual JazzTimes critics’ poll, 1990, and “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition” in the 1996, 1995, 1993 and 1992 Downbeat critics’ poll. In February of 2009, Howard was recognized as a “Modern Maestro”, one of Downbeat Magazine’s 75 Great Guitarists of all time.