Emily Remler

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Emily Remler
File:Emily Remler.jpg
Remler at Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, Half Moon Bay CA Photo: Brian McMillen
Background information
Born (1957-09-18)September 18, 1957
Manhattan, New York United States
Died May 4, 1990(1990-05-04) (aged 32)
Sydney Australia
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1976–1990
Notable instruments
Borys B120
Gibson ES-330

Emily Remler (September 18, 1957 – May 4, 1990) was an American jazz guitarist who rose to prominence in the 1980s. She recorded seven albums of hard bop, jazz standards and fusion guitar.

Remler appealed to all audiences with her wide understanding of all forms of jazz. She gained respect from fellow musicians and critics because of her dedication, enthusiasm and remarkable skill.[1]

Early life and influences

Born in New York City, Remler began to play the guitar at the age of ten. Initially inspired by rock artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Winter as well as other popular styles of music, she experienced a musical epiphany during her studies from 1974 to 1976 at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. She began to listen to such legendary jazz greats as Herb Ellis, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Pat Martino, Charlie Christian, Miles Davis and John Coltrane and took up jazz with a ferocious intensity, practicing almost constantly and never looked back. After graduating from Berklee at age 18 she started her professional career touring around the USA.[1][2]


Remler's first significant and formative step as a fledgling professional musician was to settle in New Orleans where she played in blues and jazz clubs working with bands such as FourPlay and Little Queenie and the Percolators before beginning her recording career in 1981. She was championed by guitar great Herb Ellis, who referred to her as "the new superstar of guitar". Ellis introduced her to the world at the Concord, CA Jazz Festival in 1978.[1][2]

In an interview with People magazine, she once said of herself: "I may look like a nice Jewish girl from New Jersey, but inside I’m a 50-year-old, heavyset black man with a big thumb, like Wes Montgomery." ~People Mag. 1982~

Recorded for the famous Concord label, Remler's albums showcase the diverse influences of a fast-developing artist who quickly attained a distinctive jazz style on the guitar through her interpretations of jazz standards and her own compositions. Her first album as a band leader, Firefly, won immediate acclaim and her bop guitar on the follow-up, Take Two, was equally well received. Transitions and Catwalk traced the emergence of a more individual voice, with many striking original tunes, while her love of Wes Montgomery shone through on the stylish East to Wes.

When the rhythm section is floating, I'll float too, and I'll get a wonderful feeling in my stomach. If the rhythm section is really swinging, it's such a great feeling, you just want to laugh —Emily Remler

In addition to her recording career as a band leader and composer, Remler played with artists as diverse as Larry Coryell, with whom she recorded an album entitled Together, and the singer Rosemary Clooney. She played on Broadway for the Los Angeles version of the show Sophisticated Ladies from 1981 to 1982 and produced two popular guitar instruction videos. She also toured for several years in the early eighties as guitarist for Astrud Gilberto. In 1985, she won the 'Guitarist of the Year' award in Down Beat magazine's international poll. In 1988, she was 'Artist in Residence' at Duquesne University and, in 1989, received Berklee's Distinguished Alumni award. Bob Moses, the drummer on Transitions and Catwalk, said, "Emily had that loose, relaxed feel. She swung harder and simpler. She didn't have to let you know that she was a virtuoso in the first five seconds."[3]

She married Jamaican jazz pianist Monty Alexander in 1981, the marriage ending in 1984.

Her first guitar was her elder brother's Gibson ES-330, and she played a Borys B120 hollow body electric towards the end of the 1980s. Her acoustic guitars included a 1984 Collectors Series Ovation and a nylon string Korocusci classical guitar that she used for playing bossa nova.

When asked how she wanted to be remembered she remarked:

"Good compositions, memorable guitar playing and my contributions as a woman in music…. but the music is everything, and it has nothing to do with politics or the women’s liberation movement."

Remler was addicted to opiates including heroin[4] and dilaudid.[3] She died of heart failure at the age of 32[5] at the Connells Point home of musician Ed Gaston, while on tour in Australia.


Two tribute albums were recorded after her death, Just Friends volume one and two, featuring contributions from Herb Ellis, David Benoit, Bill O'Connell and David Bromberg among many others.

David Benoit also wrote the song "6-String Poet", from his album Inner Motion, as a tribute to Remler.[6]

In 2006, the Skip Heller Quartet recorded a song called "Emily Remler" in her memory.


Studio albums


  • 1991: Retrospective, Volume One: Standards
  • 1991: Retrospective, Volume Two: Compositions


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.ezproxy.bu.edu/subscriber/article/grove/music/J375300?q=emily+remler&hbutton_search.x=0&hbutton_search.y=0&hbutton_search=search&source=omo_epm&source=omo_t237&source=omo_gmo&source=omo_t114&search=quick&pos=1&_start=1#firsthit
  2. 2.0 2.1 [1][dead link]
  3. 3.0 3.1 Tzvi Gluckin. "Forgotten Heroes: Emily Remler." Premier Guitar July 29, 2014 (Premier Guitar, "Forgotten Heroes: Emily Remler") Retrieved September 4, 2014
  4. Scott Yanow. "Emily Remler | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-07-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. The New York Times. "Emily Remler Dies on Australia Tour; Guitarist Was 32" (Obituary in the New York Times Published: May 8, 1990) Retrieved September 4, 2014
  6. "David Benoit Biography". OLDIES.com. Retrieved 2014-07-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links