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Friday, June 24, 2011

The Complete Charlie Christian Volume 8

Here's Part 8...........

March – June 1941

The March 13, 1941 studio session continues on this eighth and final volume which ends with the final recordings in June of 1941.

Remainder of the March 13 studio session:
*   “Good Enough to Keep”     both takes
Later renamed “Air Mail Special.”
Followed by a series of airchecks from What’s New?–The Old Gold Show:
*   “Good Enough to Keep”     March 17
*   “Wholly Cats”     April 7
*   “Breakfast Feud”     April 14
Missing the piano intro, as are all other issues.
*   “Ida, Sweet As Apple Cider”     April 14
Another magnificent solo by CC—a 32-bar masterpiece.
This was the the only time he was ever recorded playing on “Ida....”

*   “Flying Home”     listed as April 14, but actually from February 10.
*   “Song of the Islands”     April 28
CC plays a four-bar intro followed by 16 bars of embellished melody—unusual and lovely.
*   “Flying Home”     May 5
First-time CD issue for this date.
In May of 1941, being far more advanced musically than almost everyone else in jazz, Charlie Christian was the natural leader in any musical setting in which he participated.  Even the egocentric Benny Goodman treated Charles with kid gloves, first ensuring that the guitarist was persuaded to take the path he wanted the rest of the sextet to take.
Probably due to Charlie’s quiet, unassuming nature, this quality has not been emphasized in discussions of his influence.  His leadership, however, has not only been attested to by the musicians that played with him at the time, but is also aurally quite evident between takes on the studio recordings as well as on the jam sessions that were recorded, such as the one in the previous volume and the next sessions.
Thanks to Jerry Newman and his recorder, we are indeed fortunate to have the opportunity to hear the very birth of modern jazz with Charlie Christian leading the pioneers of the bebop movement at the Harlem after-hours clubs Minton’s Playhouse and Clark Monroe’s The Uptown House.
In the excellent notes to this CD, the proposition is introduced that the pianist on the next two tracks is Kenny Kersey and not Thelonious Monk as has previously been commonly thought.  Since I’ve always suspected as much, I have to agree with that rational premise although I’d always hoped it was the earliest Monk on record—they’re excellent piano solos—but it’s not Monk.
There’s a substantial amount of crowd noise on the first two tunes from these sessions (particularly bothersome on “Topsy”) that does not exist on Jerry Newman’s original acetates but first appeared on the 1947 Vox 78-rpm album.  It’s in this volume and a few subsequent CD releases that have used the 78s for their source—or lifted them from Masters of Jazz.
*   “Topsy”      (aka  “Swing to Bop”  or  “Charlie’s Choice”  or  “In the Hall of the Mountain King”)
The recording starts at the sixth bar of the “first” chorus with Charlie Christian already in full flight, followed by five more choruses of the most inventive solo ever!
A trumpet and a piano solo are followed by another three wonderful choruses by CC.

*   “Stompin’ at the Savoy”
Two 3-chorus solos by Charles—were it not for the previous track, this would have qualified as the best single recording of all time.
An added bonus is the clearly audible rhythm guitar, especially on the piano solo.

*   “I Got Rhythm”     (aka  “Guy’s Got to Go”)     [Mislabeled “Lips Flips” on this CD;  that surtitle belongs to the following tune.]
Two choruses by Charles.
As on all other issues, the first six beats of his second chorus are repeated (a flaw in the original recording).

*   “Stompin’ at the Savoy”     (aka  “Lips Flips”  or  “On with Charlie Christian”)
Two-and-a-half CC solo choruses.
A little-known seventh track featuring Charlie Christian was also recorded by Jerry Newman, at Minton’s on May 8.  It has never been released—very closely hoarded by a very few collectors.  It’s a 17-chorus rendition of “Stompin’ at the Savoy” that includes two solo choruses by CC plus five final choruses of collective improvisation with Charles as the focal point.
[This “Stompin’ at the Savoy” was issued for the first time ever in October 2001 on Masters of Jazz MJCD 189, Charlie Christian • Volume 9.]
The final tracks on the Masters of Jazz series are three airchecks from the Monte Proser Dance Carnival in Madison Square Garden:
*   “Benny’s Bugle”     May 28
Two lively blues choruses by CC;  his best on this tune.
*   “Rose Room”     June 6
A particularly interesting 24-bar solo by CC (the ensemble takes the last 8 bars of the chorus)—reminiscent of the March 13 pre-rehearsal jam, rather than of other occasions with the sextet.
It’s missing the first bar of CC’s 4-bar intro but is otherwise complete.
*   “Solo Flight”     June
     (“Chonk, Charlie, Chonk”)
With the full orchestra, of course.  Comparable to the studio versions, suffering only from the lesser sound quality.

Not included here is another tune from the MSG broadcasts which may have been the last recording of a Charlie Christian solo.   An incomplete aircheck of “Stompin’ at the Savoy” was recorded some time in June 1941 containing a piano intro, a chorus of the melody on which CC plays some beautiful “SA-VOY” chords, followed by an extraordinary guitar solo that was distressingly cut off after 22 bars.

[This is another version of “Stompin’ at the Savoy” issued for the first time ever in October 2001 on Masters of Jazz MJCD 189, Charlie Christian • Volume 9.]

I like to think of this as Charles’ last solo only because of the way in which such an innovative creation was prematurely cut off—much as his life was so shamefully snuffed out while his artistic genius was still in ascension.   Actually, either of the other two June recordings could have been his last.   In any case, judging from the last few months of recordings, there was every indication that Charlie Christian’s creativity was indeed gaining momentum with no sign of CC nearing his peak.

There are a few more items not in this last volume that may have some CC participation with the sextet during the period covered by the last volume:
Four tunes from the America in Swingtime broadcast in the spring of 1941—an untitled blues, “The Sheik of Araby,” “Gone with ‘What’ Wind,” and “Stompin’ at the Savoy.”

And a May 1st 1941 aircheck of “A Smo-o-o-oth One” broadcast from the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival at the Armory Hall in Alexandria, Virginia.

Good enough to keep (air mail special)
Good enough to keep (air mail special) 
Good enough to keep (air mail special)
Wholly cats
Breakfast feud
Ida, sweet as apple cider
Flying home
Song of the islands
Flying home
Topsy (Charlie's choice) (Swing to bop)
Stompin' at the Savoy
Benny's bugle
Rose Room
Solo Flight

--Volume 9 soon to come--


  1. Thank you Barberella for another Charlie Christian. I really appreciate! This is really a great chronological collection.

  2. Looking forward to Vol 9.

    Thanks from Mike

  3. I'll try to get that one up today :)