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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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CHARLIE CHRISTIAN

The Collection 1939-41

ACROBAT MUSIC FABCD352

 

 

Flying Home

Rose Room

Stardust

Haven't Named It Yet

Seven Come Eleven (Roast Turkey Stomp)

Shivers

Grand Slam (Boy Meets Goy)

It's just like taking candy from a baby

Ad Lib Blues

Dickie's Dream (Lester's Dream)

Wholly Cats

Royal Garden Blues

As Long As I Live

Breakfast Feud

I've Found A New Baby

Gone With What Draft

Jammin' In Four

Solo Flight

Waitin' For Benny (A Smooth One)

A Smoo-ooth One

Air Mail Special

Ida (Sweet As Apple Cider)

Topsy (Charlie's Choice) (Swing To Bop Pt. 2)

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Charlie Christian (guitar) with Benny Goodman Sextet; Benny Goodman and his Orchestra; Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra; Edmond Hall Celeste Quartet; Minton's Playhouse Jam Session

Recorded 1939-41 [77:11]

There’s little that needs to be added biographically about Charlie Christian’s galvanic importance in the role of the guitar as a soloistic vehicle in Jazz. And due to the extreme and tragic truncation of his life, pretty much everything is always available. That said, a well-annotated and transferred 77-minute selection will always go well when competitively priced.

Of course almost everything here is with Benny Goodman’s band – either the Sextet or the later septet and big band. The exceptions are for a date with Lionel Hampton in October 1939, complete with all-star sidemen Red Allen, JC Higginbotham, Earl Bostic and pianist Clyde Hart et al, one of the tracks made by Edmond Hall’s Celeste Quartet in 1941, and the live jam session at Minton’s.

Goodman had been interested in utilising the electric guitar and had been persuaded by John Hammond to listen to Christian. He tried him out on Rose Room, thinking the guitarist wouldn’t know it, but he did and that was enough. We can hear the tune from the October 1939 session that begins this survey. Goodman’s Sextet originally included Fletcher Henderson as pianist but he soon gave way to the more fluent and imaginative – and technically advanced – Johnny Guarnieri. Fred Astaire joins in for singing and indeed tapping on an April 1940 date called It’s Just Like Taking Candy From A Baby. Beware the track listing though – this isn’t a Sextet side, it’s the Orchestra.

The famous rehearsal segment is rightly included, made when the engineers kept running whilst bassist Artie Bernstein was still wending his way to the studio. It shows the group at its most relaxed, chewing on an ad-lib Blues – the title later grafted onto it when it was eventually released many years later. When such as Buck Clayton, Lester Young, Cootie Williams and Count Basie joined Goodman’s Sextet the results were memorable – Clayton and Young precise and allusive in their contributions, whilst in the other version of the sextet Williams and Basie were more volubly extrovert. Listen out for the ‘Salt Peanuts’ theme from the front line of Williams, Goodman and tenor Georgie Auld in Breakfast Feud, from 1941. Christian solos off the bat on Solo Flight, his co-composition and great tour de force. It still strikes sparks to this day. It’s good to hear an example of a New York broadcast from 1941 – the What’s New show – where the Sextet plays Ida and even better to hear Christian live at Minton’s Playhouse in May 1941. Here, with Kenny Kersey, Nick Fenton and Kenny Clarke he can stretch out a bit on Topsy. Acrobat loses half a point for not adding in the personnel listing that there’s a trumpeter involved: he is Joe Guy.

The transfers are proficient without being outstanding but they won’t in any way diminish admiration for the precious recordings of one of the greatest of all guitarists, and not forgetting his distinguished colleagues.

Jonathan Woolf



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