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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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CHARLIE CHRISTIAN

Blues in B

Le Chant du Monde 274 1459

 

 

 
CD1

1. Stardust
2. I Got Rhythm
3. Stardust
4. Tea For Two
5. Rose Room
6. Flying Home
7. Haven't Named It Yet
8. Deep Sea Blues
9. Honeysuckle Rose
10. Seven Come Eleven
11. Flying Home
12. Pagin' The Devil
13. Good Mornin' Blues
14. Oh! Lady Be Good
15. All Star Strut
16. Till Tom Special
17. Gone With "What" Wind
18. The Sheik Of Araby
19. I Surrender Dear
20. Good Enough to Keep
CD2

1. Six Appeal
2. Ad Lib Blues
3. Charlie's Dream
4. Lester's Dream
5. Wholly Cats
6. Royal Garden Blues
7. Benny's Bugle
8. Breakfast Feud
9. I Can't Give You Anything But Love
10. I Found a New Baby
11. Profoundly Blue
12. Jammin' In Four
13. Solo Flight
14. I Hadn't Anyone Till You
15. Blues in B
16. A Smo-o-oth One
17. Good Enough to Keep
18. Up On Teddy's Hill
19. Stompin' at The Savoy
20. Swing to Bop
 
Collective personnel

Charlie Christian – Guitar
Benny Goodman, Edmund Hall – Clarinets
Lionel Hampton – Vibes, drums
Cootie Williams, Buck Clayton, Henry "Red" Allen, Hot Lips Page, Shad Collins, Harry Edison, Ed Lewis, Joe Guy, Alex Fila, Irving Goodman, Jimmy Maxwell, Johnny Martell, Ziggy Elman, Harry James – Trumpets
Benny Carter, Earl Bostic, Gus Bivona, Skippy Martin, Georgie Auld, Earle Warren, Don Byas, Kermit Scott, Eddie Miller, Lester Young, Buddy Tate, Jerry Jerome, Toots Mondello, Pete Mondello, Buff Estes, Buss Bassey, Bob Snyder, Jack Washington – Saxophones
J. C. Higginbotham, Jack Teagarden., Cutty Cutshall, Lou McGarity, Dickie Wells, Benny Morton, Dan Minor, Vernon Brown, Ted Vesely, Red Ballard - Trombones
Fletcher Henderson, Count Basie, Johnny Guarnieri, Jess Stacy, Clyde Hart, James P. Johnson, Frankie Hines, Pete Johnson, Joe Sullivan, Dudley "Duke" Brooks, Kenny Kersey – Piano
Meade Lux Lewis - Celeste
Freddie Green - Guitar
Artie Bernstein, Oscar Pettiford, Walter Page, Israel Crosby, Bob Haggart, Nick Fenton - Bass
Dave Tough, Sidney Catlett, Jo Jones, Nick Fatool, Gene Krupa, Harry Jaeger, Kenny Clarke - Drums
Ida Cox – Vocals
 

In 1939, Duke Ellington employed a bassist in his early twenties named Jimmy Blanton, who revolutionised the use of the double bass in jazz. It was a remarkably similar story to that of Charlie Christian, a guitarist in his early twenties, who was recruited by Benny Goodman in 1939 and who revolutionised guitar playing by popularising the electric guitar. Even stranger was the fact that both men died tragically early of tuberculosis in 1942. In the space of three years, both men contributed enormously to the future of jazz, bringing their respective instruments into the limelight and demonstrating new ways of using them.

This double CD is one of a series of 20 albums from Le Chant du Monde, highlighting the work of individual musicians. One useful feature of the series is that tracks are arranged in chronological order, so that listeners can trace the development of each artist. This album begins with a September 1939 radio broadcast introducing "our new guitar player" with the Benny Goodman Sextet. Charlie Christian’s solo is daring, including a quotation from Pretty Baby and demonstrating how the electric guitar can cut through with single-string lines. The next track has Charlie with a quartet led by tenor-saxist Jerry Jerome. Again, Charlie’s solos are impressively clear, and we also hear how the chug-chug of his rhythm playing makes quite an impact.

Of course, Charlie Christian really made his name with Benny Goodman, and the collection consists mainly of his work with BG’s small groups and big band (including his feature on Solo Flight). There are also three tracks from a Goodman septet which sounded like a Basie small group because it contained Buck Clayton, Lester Young and Count Basie. The rhythm section was Basie’s familiar line-up, so that you can hear Charlie Christian and Freddie Green strumming side-by-side.

Count Basie is also present on one of my favourite tracks: a version of I Found a New Baby by the Goodman Sextet, with a splendid riff added behind the familiar melody, fine solos all round and dynamic drumming from Jo Jones. Another of my favourite recordings is the album’s title track, caught when the group was warming up in the studio and someone suggested "Let’s play the blues in B" – a challenging key which Christian negotiated with aplomb. I’m sorry they haven’t included the informal Waiting for Benny which followed Blues in B in the studio, as it has the qualities of a jam session where musicians are just playing for pleasure – but making superb music in the process.

At any rate, this is a useful introduction to the work of an influential jazz musician whose innovations foreshadowed the bebop revolution. You might even call Charlie Christian the first guitar hero.


Tony Augarde

 



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