AfricaBamba asked for listening suggestions, and i'll oblige, for him and everyone else interested...
A few quotes first...
"Lenny Breau played more great stuff at one time than anybody on the planet... with feeling and tone. He was the best that ever lived, bar none."
"He is one of the true geniuses of the guitar. I suppose he is a musician's musician. His knowledge of the instrument and the music is so vast, and I think that's what knocks people out about him. But he's such a tasty player too. I think if Chopin had played guitar, he would have sounded like Lenny Breau."
-Chet Atkins, CGP
"[Lenny] is the best I have ever heard, and I have heard some players
-Jerry Reed, CGP
"He had the ability to reach into your heart."
"He dazzled me with his extraordinary guitar playing... I wish the world had the opportunity to experience his artistry."
"Lenny Breau was the most innovative guitarist since Wes Montgomery."
(Phil also mentions that Wes became a huge Lenny fan after hearing just one album by him in the late 60s - likely "Velvet Touch")
"What really got me was the soul behind all the playing."
"Regardless of style, few musicians have been universally held in such high esteem by their peers."
-Jim Ferguson, "Lenny Breau Remembered", Guitar Player Magazine 1984
"The late Lenny Breau was an uncrowned king of jazz fingerstyle guitar. A relatively unknown voice on the instrument, he startled newcomers to his music by his ability to comp chords behind himself sounding like two guitarists, ring out lengthy bell-like harmonic passages, tastefully blend his influences of country, jazz and flamenco and fluidly improvise in this style."
-Brawner Smoot, "The Immortal Lenny Breau" 1986
"It was the freshest, most exciting thing I had heard in years. ... He...was doing things that I never dreamed of. It was one of the greatest days of my life, the first day I heard Lenny."
"Lenny is the greatest guitar player in the world today. I think he knows more guitar than any guy that's ever walked the face of the earth, because he can play jazz, he can play a little classical, he can play great country--and he does it all with taste."
"My first reaction was a combination of jealousy, envy, admiration - because he was so good and so original. I thought, 'Oh my God. This guy is light years ahead of me and so many other people around here.'"
"I have found a better player than I am."
-Merle Travis, describing a then 12-year-old Lenny
"Breau was perhaps the most technically brilliant guitarist of our time. ... Gatton thought Breau was the best ever."
-Steve Wolf, article from Danny Gatton's official hall of fame page
"It must be remembered that Coltrane's Jazz in 1962 was better known for experimentation.... This type of eccentric and unorthodox playing, which most musicians and guitarists could not comprehend, nor play, appealed to Lenny. When Lenny sat in...when Lenny's turn came to play, the effect was electrifying. Coltrane leaned over with eyes wide-open, looked at Lenny's hands, and smiled."
-George Sykornyk, on Lenny's encounter with John Coltrane
"Even when Lenny noodled, it was a feast!"
-Frank Zappa's words through Steve Vai
"The late Lenny Breau was a true jazz guitar genius who ranks alongside Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery as one of a select few inspired innovators who set new standards of creative artistry in Jazz Guitar history.
Lenny's musical influences were truly diverse. They ranged from Country fingerstyle master Chet Atkins, Jazz Guitarists Johnny Smith and Tal Farlow, Flamenco virtuoso Sabicas, Jazz pianist Bill Evans and sax titan John Coltrane. Drawing from these eclectic sources Lenny created a truly unique voice in the guitar world.
Lenny's unprecedented technical facility and depth of musical insight allowed him to play Bill Evans style chord voicings simultaneously with improvised single note lines. His country and classical right hand techniques allowed for great independence of parts and subtle tonal and dynamic shadings. Lenny possessed a singular blend of techniques and musical knowledge that often created the illusion of two and sometimes three musicians eminating from a single guitarist."
"He was the best electric bassist ever including Jaco [Pastorious]. He played the best solo on bass that you ever heard. It was ridiculous. Lenny was so advanced on bass that most guys wouldn't even try to do what he was doing because it was light years beyond anything they could ever think about."
-Don Thompson, universally regarded one of the greatest jazz bassists and multi-instrumentalists ever
"One day I was at Chet’s and he told me he wanted me to meet this guitarist. Lenny was upstairs playing. Even before I made it half way up the stairs I was hearing things that were astonishing. Ten minutes later I was sitting with Lenny who began to play harmonics such as I have never in my life, and then I started learning right there and then. Chet, and he mentions it in his autobiography, always regretted that he didn’t film that session. To this day, there is no one in the world who can do what Lenny did and we are all indebted to his legacy."
"Then Lenny Breau came along, and he could play like everyone: Chet, Joe [Pass], Bill Evans, Gene Autry [laughs], and that’s what really floored me. When you’re learning what Lenny does, you’re learning everything, because he was covering so many genres. It was frustrating, really."
"His intuition was the predominant force in his playing, rather than his intellect. ... He knew the chords he was playing, and he could spell them out if he had to, but he was more into musical colors
, which he largely achieved using harmonics—simultaneous, cascading, and various amalgamations. He was always finding something new."
"One night I heard out of the blue just as I was getting ready to go to sleep this guitar player singing quietly with harmonics, and different voicings, and I felt this electric bolt go through me. I sat up and I couldn't believe what I was hearing."
"He was just this great, wonderful personality that I was attracted to because he seemed so free in his own right. Lenny had the guts to play what he wanted to play. He always played from the heart and he never pretended anything when he was playing, never tried to impress. He didn't buy into the bullshit. There was just total honesty all the time and that was why he was so special. Didn't matter who was around, he was continually himself. He didn't know how to do anything else or be anything else. That's one of the reasons I loved him so much: he was always, always true."
"Lenny was amazing, one of those people who make you feel like you've arrived."
"I was stunned; stunned is the word. Here was this little guy with this ready smile who had so much respect for other people and their music and was so encouraging about whatever you were doing. Completely selfless in that way. Then he picked up his guitar and it was like someone from another planet playing - effortless genius, just effortless. Totally apropos, no matter what it was. Every note that came out of his guitar would be like it was dictated from the music muses of the universe.
He just totally tuned into what I was doing, which is why every one of those takes [on the album] is a first take (virtually all of the recordings on Lenny's official albums were first takes)... As far as I was concerned, I felt I had the good fortune to accompany a genius on that album."
(referring to her eponymous debut album from 1970)
"Every great guitarist I have been privileged to know - and the list includes Oscar Castro-Neves, Mundell Lowe, Gene Bertoncini, Ed Bickert, Reg Schwager, the late Emily Remler, and more - has considered Lenny a wunderkind at minimum, even some kind of musical miracle. The universality of Lenny's interests on the instrument led him to the most total technique on guitar I have ever heard."
-Gene Lees, legendary music critic
"When you look over the guitar literature of the past - Sor, Tarrega, the transcriptions of Segovia and more, when you look back down through the instrument's history to the time before it had six strings - you are compelled to think that more than just maybe, Lenny Breau was the most accomplished guitarist in history."
-Gene Lees, music critic and historian
"He was a great fingerstylist with fathomless knowledge. His legend will continue to inspire future generations."
"He was a mess... he was a mess..."
There have been words of deep admiration from Joe Pass, Tal Farlow, Johnny Smith, George Van Eps, Ted Greene, Andy Summers, John McLaughlin, Shawn Lane, Carlos Montoya, Pat Metheny, Larry Coryell, and many others, and as I find more quotes I'll try to remember to post them too.