Why Chord Melody?
My guitar instruction has been classical. Nylon strings, fingernails, Carcassi/Sor/Villa Lobos etudes and Segovia scales and so on. On the side I've played in a garage band since high-school. We played mostly classic rock with a little country and bluegrass flavor thrown in - mostly stuff with three chords in it.
My interest in Jazz actually came through playing the clarinet in highschool. I used to listen to lots of Dixieland Jazz and Big Band music for the great clarinet parts. Well, Dixieland lead me to Louis Armstrong and then to the great Jazz vocalists of early Jazz like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Strangely enough Jazz guitar never interested me that much - when I listened to Jazz guitar it either pure rhythm comping or later fusion influenced stuff that struck my novice ear as too busy - many notes, not enough passion.
Listening to Ella, however, eventually brought me to her collaborator Joe Pass and I was amazed by his comping and general sound. I had to seek out his solo material and it only took one listen to "Autumn Leaves" to be hooked for good.
I actually downloaded a bootlegged version of an instructional video of Joe's. I remember watching it and having no idea what he was talking about - all the harmonic concepts were way over my head.
I've had another half decade of learning under my belt since then and am interested in gigging as a solo performer. Joe's sound has always stuck with me so now I'm putting classical etudes on hold and pursuing Chord Melody.
The idea of learning to self arrange from lead sheets really fascinates me and I've been realising for a while that to grow as a guitarist I need to understand harmony better. The most immediate benefit of studying Chord Melody style playing, however, has been that my chord vocabulary has immediately expanded - I've got tons of new grips and voicings to apply to music I already know!
As I progress I intend to update this site with reviews and news of progress - mostly though it's just to keep track of cool stuff related to my quest to progress in understanding and playing Jazz Guitar. Good luck to my fellow travelers; don't forget to tip any gigging musicians you see out there!