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Jazz Guitar Chord Solos – Robert Yelin Made It His Career!
Robert Yelin was born September 25, 1944 in Yonkers, NY His family moved to New Rochelle, New York when he was 9 years old. He became interested in the guitar at age 15 after hearing a few records from rock and roll guitarists Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. Robert began taking guitar lessons with Gus DeGazio, a local instructor who played him Johnny Smith’s famous recording “Moonlight in Vermont”. From that moment, he understood that this was the kind of music he wanted to play!
Yelin continued her guitar studies with DeGazio but now devoted herself entirely to jazz. It was around this time that Robert began his vast collection of recordings of all the famous jazz guitarists. He studied guitar technique and harmony for three years with Augie Lamont and deepened his understanding of jazz guitar by watching leading jazz guitarists of the day, including Kenny Burrell, Jim Hall and Chuck Wayne, play in New York jazz clubs.
By the age of 18, Robert Yelin was playing solo jazz guitar in restaurants, and by the age of 20 he had decided to pursue a career in music. Over the next 15 years, Yelin performed at many New York jazz venues like The Village Gate and Sweet Basil’s. He combined this career with a day job at the Yelin family’s garment manufacturing business. He is also a prolific arranger and guitar writer. From 1968 to 1982, he wrote over 30 articles for Guitar Player magazine alone as well as articles for Downbeat and Cadence magazines. Beginning in 1982, Robert became a professor at the University of Colorado where he taught jazz history and worked with the jazz guitar ensemble.
It was also during this same year that Robert Yelin was diagnosed with diabetes and muscular dystrophy. The physical problems of these illnesses ended his career as a jazz guitarist. Through a combination of excellent medical treatment and personal self-discipline, Yelin was able to start playing again in 1996. Robert Yelin is a unique figure in the world of jazz guitar. Besides being a gifted player, he has one of the world’s largest collections of jazz guitar audio and video recordings. His collection of videos has actually been a great source of reference for scholars and jazz guitar enthusiasts.
I had the pleasure of spending a leisurely afternoon with Robert Yelin at his home in Littleton, Colorado when I was about 35 years old. He played some of his lovely jazz guitar chord melodic solos for me on a beautiful Gibson Kalamazoo Award model archtop guitar he owned. I immediately knew why Robert was described in jazz guitar circles as a “guitar chordiologist”! He had a whole arsenal of jazz guitar chords at his fingertips, to say the least. For my part, I played him some Bach compositions on my Manuel Contreras classical guitar and he really enjoyed hearing them!
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