It can be said without exaggeration that
virtually every jazz guitarist that emerged during 1940-65 sounded
like a relative of Charlie Christian. The first important electric
guitarist, Christian played his instrument with the fluidity,
confidence, and swing of a saxophonist. Although technically a
swing stylist, his musical vocabulary was studied and emulated
by the bop players, and when one listens to players ranging from
Tiny Grimes, Barney Kessel, and Herb Ellis, to Wes Montgomery
and George Benson, the dominant influence of Christian is obvious.
Charlie Christian's time in the spotlight
was terribly brief. He played piano locally in Oklahoma, and
began to utilize an amplified guitar in 1937, after becoming
a student of Eddie Durham, a jazz guitarist who invented the
amplified guitar. John Hammond, the masterful talent scout and
producer, heard about Christian (possibly from Mary Lou Williams),
was impressed by what he saw, and arranged for the guitarist
to travel to Los Angeles in August 1939 and try out with Benny
Goodman. Although the clarinetist was initially put off by Christian's
primitive wardrobe, as soon as they started jamming on "Rose
Room," Christian's talents were obvious. For the next two
years, he would be well-featured with Benny Goodman's Sextet;
there were two solos (including the showcase "Solo Flight")
with the full orchestra; and the guitarist had the opportunity
to jam at Minton's Playhouse with such up-and-coming players
as Thelonious Monk, Kenny Clarke, and Dizzy Gillespie. All of
the guitarist's recordings (including guest spots and radio
broadcasts) are currently available on CD. Tragically, he contracted
tuberculosis in 1941, and died at the age of 25 on March 2,
1942. It would be 25 years before jazz guitarists finally moved
beyond Charlie Christian.
Christian : Complete Studio Recodings (Box set)
critics consider Charlie Christian the first important
electric guitarist in jazz and a crucial bridge between
swing and bebop. For a long time, however, it has been
relatively difficult to collect Christians music
because his work was released on several labels and haphazardly
repackaged. Definitive Records has addressed this problem
by releasing two box sets of his music: the Complete Studio
Recordings and Complete Live Recordings. Only the possessor
of a definitive discography knows if either set is complete,
but the Complete Studio Recordings includes all the sessions
Ive heard about, including five tracks used to flesh
out John Hammonds From Spirituals to Swing
live set, five tracks of studio jams and three
alternate takes (all collected on disc four of the set).
It does not include a complete set of alternate
takes, however, and if one expects every note Christian
recorded in the studio, this set will disappoint. Definitive,
however, is quite open about not offering alternates (both
liners and track listings make this clear) and while this
policy has historical limitations, musically it has much
to recommend it. - Patrick Burnette Order here from Amazon.com
here from Amazon.com
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