Think metal guitars can’t handle jazz? Cecil Alexander just shredded a set of Wes Montgomery classics on a Jackson Soloist – and his tone has guitarists raving

Cecil Alexander and Wes Montgomery
(Image credit: Cecil Alexander Instagram / Getty Images)

Cecil Alexander is proving that you can play jazz on a metal guitar and the internet is losing its mind.

The Muskegon, MI-born jazz guitarist has been touting a black, solidbody Jackson Soloist across a series of recent Instagram posts. The tone he's getting out of it, as he winds his way through Wes Montgomery tunes and bebop improvisations, is unreal. Close your eyes, and you'd believe he was playing a semi-hollow guitar built to jazz, not djent.

His latest posts show him working through Douje and Four On Six during a Wes Montgomery tribute show at Dizzy’s in San Diego. While it’s unclear as to how he’s dialed in such a smooth, crystalline tone out of a guitar better equipped at handling Slayer than jazz standards, Alexander did confirm in the comments that he’s using 10-46 gauge D'Addario roundwound strings – something Maroon 5’s James Valentine was keen to find out.

The band also features esteemed saxophonist Brian Levy, Mark Leighton on bass and drummer Kevin Kanner, whose CV includes performances with John Pizzarelli and Michael Buble. Yet it’s the elegant, conversational playing of Alexander, on a guitar jazz purists will tell you he has no right to be tearing up, that rightly steals the show.

He even proves in two other posts that the Jackson’s jazz credentials still cut it with distortion, which has left some big-name talents salivating at his licks. Journey’s Neal Schon commented, “sick bro”, with James Valentine commenting “Sick!!!” on one post and simply responding with four fire emojis on another.

Berklee professor – and John Mayer tutor – Tomo Fujia also weighed in, calling his playing “Amazing”, with Rich Brown, host of the New Origins show on Canada’s Jazz.FM91 exclaiming “This is incredible”. Guitar educator Jake Estner, meanwhile, hailed the Soloist, saying “Beautiful. That Jackson sounds amazing”.

Having graduated from Berklee in 2016, Alexander has firmly established himself in the jazz and bebop scenes, first with his 2022 album, Introducing Cecil Alexander, and then an album of guitar and voice duets with his wife, Aria Alexander.

But, as he readies an album exploring his love for math and progressive rock, the introduction of the Soloist in his arsenal is helping bridge those worlds together.

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Phil Weller

A freelance writer with a penchant for music that gets weird, Phil is a regular contributor to Prog, Guitar World, and Total Guitar magazines and is especially keen on shining a light on unknown artists. Outside of the journalism realm, you can find him writing angular riffs in progressive metal band, Prognosis, in which he slings an 8-string Strandberg Boden Original, churning that low string through a variety of tunings. He's also a published author and is currently penning his debut novel which chucks fantasy, mythology and humanity into a great big melting pot.