When people hear the term "electric jazz," they usually think of fusion, soul-jazz or crossover jazz. But the use of electric instruments in jazz actually goes back to the late 1930s, when Eddie Durham became the first person to record jazz on the electric guitar. Charlie Christian was right behind him, but while Durham only played the guitar part of the time (he was also a trombonist), Christian was a full-time guitarist -- and it was he who, more than anyone, made countless swing and bop players want to play the electric guitar. This excellent CD is full of electric guitar solos that were way ahead of their time. Although Benny Goodman is actually the leader on these live performances of 1939-1941, Christian is featured prominently on swing era favorites like "Flying Home" and "Rose Room." All of these performances (which took place at Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, and other venues) were broadcast over the radio (during the this time, live broadcasts of swing concerts were quite plentiful). You have to remember that in those pre-bebop days, jazz was part of pop culture. Goodman, Glenn Miller, and other swing icons helped define popular culture in the 1930s and early 1940s, just as the Beatles would define popular culture in the 1960s. So, by hooking up with Goodman, Christian brought his guitar solos to a very large audience. The improviser influenced everyone from country honky-tonkers to beboppers, but, tragically, he didn't live long enough to see how great an impact he had on bop guitarists -- his death from tuberculosis in 1942 at the age of 25 came about three years before the bebop revolution officially got underway. This fine collection paints an exciting picture of a jazzman who, like Clifford Brown, remained influential long after his untimely death.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson