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Monday, May 2, 2011

The Complete Charlie Christian Vol. 7..............

Volume 7 starts out with an aircheck from February 10, 1941 and goes on to part of the studio session of March 13, 1941.

Four airchecks:  three from What’s New?–The Old Gold Show and one (February 16) from the Fitch Bandwagon:

*   “Wholly Cats”     February 10
The intro & first 4 bars are missing, but I believe that’s the way it was originally recorded off the air.
[A version of “Flying Home” from this date is listed under April 14 on volume 8.]
*   “Gone With What Draft”     February 16
This is the first time this particular version has ever been issued in any format.   Unfortunately, a very poor copy was used.  The first 2 bars of CC’s intro are missing and the entire track is very scratchy.  At first I thought that it might be a version unknown to me, but I checked it against my copy which has relatively good sound and it is the correct one.
*   “Breakfast Feud”     February 17
Only an 8-bar solo, rather than the regular 8+12-bars.
*   “Gone With What Draft”     February 24
Yet another version of the tune that Benny Goodman years later renamed “Gilly.”

Two tracks from What’s New?–The Old Gold Show broadcast on March 3, 1941:

*   “Six Appeal”   (“My Daddy Rocks Me”)
Missing the 4-bar CC chord intro, as are all other issues.
*   “Solo Flight”   (“Chonk, Charlie, Chonk”)
The first CD issue of the first recording of Charlie Christian’s wonderful composition for orchestra, arranged by Jimmy Mundy.  This one’s an abbreviated version.

The studio recordings on March 4 of:

*   “Solo Flight”     both takes —and both of them are extraordinary
Take -1 was the one that Columbia issued on 78-rpm.  It hit # 1 on the Billboard Harlem Hit Parade on March 11, 1944.  Presumably due to its commercial appeal, a few jazz critics have not regarded it very highly; but when “Solo Flight” was first released it blew away every guitarist within earshot, including the very top jazz guitarists—even to this day.
To briefly quote just a couple of jazz guitar greats:
Jimmy Raney — “When I first heard Solo Flight, I almost fainted.”
Wes Montgomery — “Solo Flight was the first Charlie Christian record I heard.  Boy, that was too much!  I still hear it!  He was it for me...”

Another What’s New?–The Old Gold Show aircheck, on March 10:

*   “Flying Home”

Next is the first CD issue of the extraordinarily fantastic Waitin’ for Benny pre-rehearsal jam session that was most fortuitously recorded while Charlie Christian, drummer Dave Tough, pianist Johnny Guarnieri, tenor saxophonist Georgie Auld, and trumpeter Cootie Williams were waiting for Benny Goodman and bassist Artie Bernstein to show up for a studio session on March 13, 1941.  I treasure these recordings as much as I do the ones from Minton’s a couple of months later.

It wasn’t really a jam session as such.  Columbia’s recording techs just happened to catch Charlie Christian experimenting and jamming somewhat on his own with only Dave Tough (the best regular drummer that Goodman ever had) backing him much of the way.

Guarnieri makes many outstanding contributions on all of the tunes, while the two horns sporadically drop in and out during the 21 minutes that were preserved from this occasion.  At times Auld seems a bit lost, now and then clashing with Charles’ astonishing rhythmic concept .

This is one of the few instances in recorded history where we can get a glimpse of true creative genius at play.  Christian is traveling here in his own musical world, totally immersed in his music and seemingly enraptured by his creation.

It doesn’t get any better than this!

It starts out with Charlie...

*   “Riffin’ Around”
with 176 bars of free improvisation in the key of A before he segues into his version of “Love is Just Around the Corner”:
*   “A Smo-o-o-oth One”
It’s been written that this is the actual creation of this tune.   Possibly...but it’s more probable that it was already scheduled for this date.   The rest of the musicians seemed to recognize it immediately and jumped right in as soon as CC started playing it.

He plays one chorus of the theme with chords on the bridge, a few riffs, then drops out, just popping back in for a few absolutely swinging bars a couple of times after that.

His interest peaks again when Guarnieri intros a more interesting...

*   “I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me”
The recording is interrupted � of the way through the first chorus then curiously resumes 20 bars into another chorus of the same tune at an appreciably slower tempo.  Charles is improvising on the melody, using eighth notes, for the first 25 bars before the cut-off.  When the recording resumes, he is toying with the harmony and rhythm—playing mostly sixteenth notes and lots of triplets.

Auld has both some very good moments and, understandably, some difficult instances on this one.  Cootie plays along with CC for more than three choruses, then drops out from the jam altogether after this tune.  CC’s inventiveness really starts to shine here and it increases as the proceedings continue with a surprising 9-bar intro of...
*   “Rose Room”
CC’s two solos (1 + 3 choruses) here are unlike those on any of his other versions of “Rose Room”—with a heavy blues imprint, very melodic, and particularly with a distinctly different rhythmic lilt which was touched off in his intro.

When things start winding down, Auld’s tenor suggests...

*   “I Hadn’t Anyone Till You”
and they’re off on an extraordinarily beautiful, short rendition of that tune.
In the middle of the third chorus, Guarnieri calls out:

“Let’s play the blues”

“Charlie, Charlie, let’s play the blues in B”
*   “Blues in B”
is one of the most wonderfully fascinating blues I’ve ever heard!  Indescribable.

After five incredible choruses of blues by Charlie Christian with brilliant piano by Guarnieri, the other members of the sextet must have arrived—the engineers cut off the exquisite revelry to begin recording the commercial version of...

*   “A Smo-o-o-oth One”     all 3 takes

with which this penultimate volume ends.

As far as I know, the entire pre-rehearsal jam has only been issued once before—in 1981 on Blu-Disc LP T-l006 entitled The Un-Heard Benny Goodman, Vol. 3.  Part of the session has been issued often though.  “Blues in B” was regularly issued on LP and also on CD.   Usually, a companion track called “Waitin’ for Benny” was issued with it.  This contained “A Smo-o-o-oth One” preceded by the not-as-noisy part of the free improvisation that I’ve called “Riffin’ Around” (as it was named on the Blu-Disc LP).  The CD under review doesn’t list the free improvisation separately.

These are the only known renditions of “I Can’t Believe...” and “I Hadn’t Anyone...” recorded by Charlie Christian.

Track list:

Wholly cats
Gone with what draft
Breakfast feud
Gone with what draft
Six appeal
Chonk, Charlie, chonk (solo flight)
Solo flight
Solo flight
Flying home
A Smo-o-o-oth one (waiting for Benny)
A Smo-o-o-oth one
A Smo-o-o-oth one
A Smo-o-o-oth one


  1. Thank you so much for the Charlie Christian CDs posted so far. Any chance you will post cd8 soon? I would certainly appreciate it a lot.

    By the way, did you know that they released a volume 9 afterwards?


  2. I have both...I'll get them up, soon :)