"Fingerpicking, or playing fingerstyle, is a technique for playing the guitar, or some other stringed instrument using the fingertips and/or fingernails, rather than with a plectrum (or "pick"). It is used for classical guitar, and some other acoustic styles, but it has found its way into other genres as well". (Wikipedia)
The greatest potential of the guitar is realized when played using fingerstyle technique. Melody, independently moving bass lines and inner voices combine to create a complete, almost "orchestral" sound. In the disciplined hands of the fingerstylist, the guitar takes on many attributes of the piano - the style thus is often described as 'lap-piano'. Fingerstyle guitarists are unique among musicians in their ability to simultaneously and independently express every musical thought with all the dynamics of a symphony, it has been said by John Schroeter.
In terms of jazz there have been more guitarists using fingerstyle technique to great advantage in developing a personal and distinct approach to the instrument, among the pioneers beeing Lonnie Johnson, Teddy Bunn and Oscar Alemán, later followed by names like Wes Montgomery, George Van Eps and Joe Pass - all accomplished musicians and masters of the solo guitar playing.
Here I'll take focus on two very different fingerstyle jazzguitarist, both among my favourites. The first is Guy Van Duser, one of very few guitarists who has managed to transcribe classic stride-piano pieces for solo guitar and actually can play the arrangements in a convincing and enjoyable way. One of his records is simply named 'Stride Guitar' and has compositions by James P. Johnson and Fats Waller as well as by other renowned composers from the great American tradition of classic jazz and swing. To let you have a concept of Van Duser's skills as a fingerstyle guitarplayer I have found a video clip of a live-performance, that shows off his style convincingly.
Enjoy Guy Van Duser performing Jelly Roll Morton's "Wolverine Blues" by clicking here
The other fingerstyle jazz guitarplayer I'll mention here is Ted Greene, who may be considered a follower of the George Van Eps approach to the guitar. Ted Greene developed a fingerstyle tecnique for the electric guitar combining the harmonic theory by Van Eps with a way of playing that incorporates the right hand finesse of a Lenny Breau, another accomplished fingerstyle jazzguitarist. Unfortunately, Ted Greene only left one single recording, 'Solo Guitar' (PMP rec., 1977), before his untimely death last year. However, he spent a lot of his time writing books on and teaching his concept of guitarplaying, luckily we can have a view of one of his teaching lessons from a video clip, where he demonstrates his skills.
Enjoy Ted Greene in a performance of "Autumn Leaves" by clicking here