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Charlie Christian: The Genius Of The Electric Guitar

Jim Santella By

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The Benny Goodman Sextet opened doors. When guitarist Charlie Christian would take a solo, he’d express the ideas that made jazz what it is. He and vibraphonist Lionel Hampton had a lot of solo space in those sessions. Their improvisation set standards. Take “Boy Meets Goy (Grand Slam),” for example. It’s a boogie-woogie in the swing style of “Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy from Company B.” Under Goodman’s leadership, the piece swings hard. Clear rhythmic processes and crisp inflection come as no surprise. The clarinetist mixes all six voices equally and ensures an enjoyable ride. Like all the songs included, this one is kept at around 3 minutes. Hampton and Christian create exciting passages that drive forward and avoid predictability. Their statements echo a freedom that made jazz welcome to all fans then and now.

Columbia’s 4-CD collection includes master takes and alternate takes with the sextet, plenty of unissued material, and several larger ensemble arrangements. Buck Clayton and Lester Young join Goodman’s sextet for “Ad Lib Blues,” which puts Christian in the role of traditional blues guitarist. A significant number of the tracks pair members of the Count Basie Orchestra with Goodman’s sextet. “Solo Flight” features Christian in front of the Goodman big band. The collection closes with a 20-minute jam session from Christian, trumpeter Cootie Williams, saxophonist Georgie Auld, pianist Johnny Guarnieri and drummer Davey Tough. With the exception of the first two minutes from this final jam session, The Genius exhibits well-balanced sound that has been reproduced marvelously.

Charlie Christian biographer Peter Broadbent has written extensive liner notes for the collection. Brief snippets from rehearsals, false starts, “warts and all” turn the collection into an adventure. A 25-minute rehearsal sequence for “Benny’s Bugle” with Goodman’s sextet, where Georgie Auld and Cootie Williams have replaced Hampton, offers much insight into the way this band operated. While most of the alternate takes are similar to each other, their inclusion makes this more than five hour package a hefty one. While some repeated material may not be essential, the collection itself is one that shouldn’t be missed.


Track Listing: Flying Home; Rose Room; Star Dust; Memories Of You; Soft Winds; Seven Come Eleven; Shivers; AC-DC Current; I'm Confessin'; Till Tom Special; Gone With What Wind; The Sheik of Araby; Poor Butterfly; I Surrender, Dear; Boy Meets Goy (Grand Slam); These Foolish Things; Flying Home; Memories Of You; Soft Winds; Shivers; Gone With What Wind; The Sheik Of Araby; I Surrender, Dear; Boy Meets Goy (Grand Slam); These Foolish Things; Six Appeal (My Daddy Rocks Me); Good Enough to Keep (Air Mail Special); Ad Lib Blues; Wholly Cats; Charlie's Dream; I Never Knew; Lester's Dream; Wholly Cats; Wholly Cats; Royal Garden Blues; As Long as I Live; Benny's Bugle; Gilly; Six Appeal (My Daddy Rocks Me); Six Appeal (My Daddy Rocks Me); Six Appeal (My Daddy Rocks Me); Good Enough to Keep (Air Mail Special); Good Enough to Keep (Air Mail Special); Wholly Cats; Wholly Cats; Wholly Cats; Royal Garden Blues; Royal Garden Blues; As Long As I Live; Gilly; Gilly; Breakfast Feud; I Can't Give You Anything But Love; Breakfast Feud; On the Alamo; I Found a New Baby; Gone With What Draft; A Smo-o-o-oth One; Air Mail Special (Good Enough to Keep); Breakfast Feud; Breakfast Feud; Breakfast Feud; Breakfast Feud; I Can't Give You Anything But Love; I Can't Give You Anything But Love; Breakfast Feud; Breakfast Feud; Breakfast Feud; I Found a New Baby; Gone With What Draft; Gone With What Draft; A Smo-o-o-oth One; A Smo-o-o-oth One; Air Mail Special (Good Enough to Keep); All Star Strut; Honeysuckle Rose; Li'l Boy Love; Solo Flight; All Star Strut; Li'l Boy Love; Solo Flight;; Poor Butterfly; I Surrender, Dear; I Surrender, Dear; Six Appeal (My Daddy Rocks Me); Six Appeal (My Daddy Rocks Me); These Foolish Things; Tune Up & Blues; Wholly Cats; Breakfast Feud; Breakfast Feud; Gilly (Gone With What Draft; All Star Strut; Benny's Bugle; Benny's Bugle.

Personnel: Charlie Christian- electric guitar; Benny Goodman- clarinet; Lionel Hampton- vibraphone; Fletcher Henderson, Johnny Guarnieri, Count Basie, Ken Kersey, Fletcher Henderson, Dudley Brooks, Jess Stacy- piano; Bob Haggart, Artie Bernstein, Walter Page- bass; Gene Krupa, Nick Fatool, Harry Jaeger, Jo Jones, Davey Tough- drums; Harry James, Irving Goodman, Jimmy Maxwell, Johnny Martel, Cootie Williams, Alec Fila, Buck Clayton, Ziggy Elman- trumpet; Jack Teagarden, Lou McGarity, Cutty Cutshall, Red Ballard, Vernon Brown, Ted Vesely- trombone; Benny Carter, Skippy Martin, Les Robinson, Gus Bivona, Toots Mondello, Buff Estes- alto saxophone; Bus Bassey, Jerry Jerome, Pete Mondello, Eddie Miller, Lester Young, Georgie Auld- tenor saxophone; Bob Snyder- baritone saxophone; Freddie Green- acoustic rhythm guitar; Arnold Covey- guitar; Helen Forrest- vocal on

Title: The Genius Of The Electric Guitar | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Sony-Legacy Music

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