Charlie Christian

Live 1939-1941

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AllMusic Review by

The 140 minutes of music here should speak for itself to any fan of Charlie Christian, or of great guitar playing. There's just about as much of his music here as there is everywhere else combined -- these concert, broadcast, and amateur recordings are an indispensable addition to his output. The sound quality varies, in keeping with the low level of available technology at the time, but it's all priceless stuff, as Christian breaks new ground with practically every note of each guitar solo here. Beginning with a 1939 live performance of "Flying Home" with Benny Goodman and company, where Christian gives a brief but striking improvisation on the break, the territory on this double-CD set lengthens and broadens along with the solos. The value of the radio transcriptions and amateur recordings can be appreciated on numbers such as "I Got Rhythm" and "Star Dust" as performed by the Jerry Jerome Quartet at the Harlem Breakfast Club in Minneapolis in September 1939, jams running nearly six minutes each, giving Christian more than enough room to bend some strings and the notes with them. Some songs run close to ten minutes, offering the longest Charlie Christian-featured numbers available anywhere, and it's all overpowering (his work on "Tea for Two" alone is a humbling experience). The Benny Goodman Sextet (with Lionel Hampton and Fletcher Henderson), the Jerry Jerome Quartet, and a series of jams with the Count Basie Orchestra, featuring Buck Clayton, Lester Young, and Jo Jones (captured at the 1939 From Spirituals to Swing performance at Carnegie Hall show), make up the groups included here.

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