On November 7 and December 19, 1940, the Benny Goodman Sextet made a series of records for Columbia that featured electrically amplified guitarist Charlie Christian. In 1994, the Masters of Jazz label raided the archives for every known take; many of these appear on 1940, Vol. 5, which is recommended for those who want to surrender to the wonderment of works in progress. With so many multiple takes including rehearsals and breakdowns, this is quite different from the standard issue Best of Benny Goodman collection. Tracks one through nine document the proceedings of November 7, the day on which Goodman and Christian, together with trumpeter Cootie Williams, tenor saxophonist Georgie Auld (who had obviously been listening to Ben Webster), bassist Artie Bernstein, and drummer Harry Jaeger collaborated with pianist Count Basie. (On December 19, the same group would whip up multiple versions of the "Breakfast Feud" with Ken Kersey at the piano instead of Basie.) Those who wish to adopt the perspective of a fly on the wall should choose track number six, a rehearsal of "Benny's Bugle" that lasts a little over 14 minutes. The November session's five takes of "Wholly Cats" may be found at the end of the previous installment in the series, Charlie Christian 1940, Vol. 4. Recorded on the Make Believe Ballroom radio program on December 19, tracks nine through eleven ("Benny's Bugle," "Wholly Cats," and a jumpin' treatment of Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose"), add extra spontaneity to this already unusually free-spirited Charlie Christian/Benny Goodman retrospective.
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