Charlie Christian (1916 – 1942) was an American swing and bebop jazz guitarist. He was an important early performer on the electric guitar, and is cited as a key figure in the development of bebop, cool and modern jazz. Many critics believe that he alone is the link between hot and modern jazz; there is jazz before Charlie Christian and jazz after Charlie Christian.
Charlie Christian grew up in Oklahoma City, his father was a blind guitarist and singer, his two elder brothers, Edward and Clarence, were musicians, and Charlie himself started early on playing cigar-box "guitar" during his elementary school days. When he grew up, he became a much-admired local musician in Oklahoma, playing an amplified acoustic guitar as early as 1937. Word of his skill reached John Hammond, who arranged for Christian to travel to Los Angeles in August 1939 for an audition with Benny Goodman. Goodman was deeply impressed by Christian's playing, engaged him and soon featured him on weekly radio broadcasts and in recordings. Before the year was over he was a nationally prominent jazz soloist, unfortunately his success was as brief as it was immediate. Charlie contracted tuberculosis in mid-1941 and died a few months later.
Christian was among the first jazz guitarists to amplify his instrument in order to match the volume of wind instruments, and he was clearly the most brilliant soloist of his time on electric guitar. He was emulated by many swing-style players, and his posthumous impact on younger bop guitarists was enormous. He was a regular participant in the Harlem jam sesseions at Minton's at which some of the bop pioneers gathered - in this setting Charlie further developed his playing style and became the first bop guitarist.
Charlie Christian remains among the most creative soloist of the swing period, and his co-operate work with Goodman created compositions and memorable recordings that since have become standards in jazz. I found a couple of examples of Goodman-Christian compositions on YouTube I would like to share.
The first video is a recording of a performance by Benny Goodman septet at the North Sea Festival, 1982. Bandmembers are Benny Goodman (Clarinet), Scott Hamilton (Tenor), Warren Vache (Cornet), Chris Flory (Guitar), Phil Flanagan (Bass), John Bunch (Piano), Mel Lewis (Drums). The tune played is "Air Mail Special" - also known as "Good Enough To Keep"
The secound video fragment is by an unnamed ensemble playing "Breakfast Feud" performed ive at FNAC Callao Madrid November 9th 2006
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