giovedì 23 maggio 2013

Review of Genius of Electric Guitar by Charlie Christian

Charlie Christian has been one of the first great guitarists jazz and he has influenced a generation of jazz guitarists in ‘40 and ’50, people like Tiny Grimes, Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis, Wes Montgomery and George Benson. He began his musical career playing the piano, but after having become a student of Eddie Durham he started to play the guitar, he was discovered as a young talent by John Hammond and in 1939 he was invited to play for the clarinettist Benny Goodman playing in his Sextet for two years before dying for tuberculosis at the age of 25. To understand the importance of this musician we must consider that in the '20 and '30 the guitar was almost always bound to assignments of accompaniment and only in exceptional cases as a  soloist. Charlie Christian was one of the craftsmen of the change introducing electric guitar, an archtop, and original ideas, succeeding in opening new frontiers for the jazz.
Christian understood the possibilities of amplification and thanks to the electric sound he discovered a new, strong sound, almost similar to the sax, and above all a new style. This cd represents a sort of his stylistic manual, in these sixteen traces flows all of his love for his instrument. His model seems to be the sound and the style of the sax, Christian uses effective sequences of riff and monodic sentences, creating musical ideas that for many years will be motive for inspiration for several guitarists, from Wes Montgomery to George Benson.. The passages are loads of melody, from the rhythmics linear and free from excesses or virtuosities, and at the same time, easy to listen.
The people who play with him are all skilled musicians: Benny Carter (alto saxophone), George Auld, Lester Young (tenor saxophone), Cootie Williams, Buck Clayton, Harry James (trumpet), Jack Teagarden (trombone), Benny Goodman (clarinet), Lionel Hampton (vibraphone), Count Basie, Fletcher Henderson, Johnny Guarnieri, Dudley Brooks, Ken Kersey, Jess Stacy (piano), Freddie Green (guitar) Artie Bernstein, Walter Page (bass), Nick Fatool, Jo Jones, Harry Jaeger, Dave Tough, Gene Krupa (drums). All of them heavy champions for that kind of jazz.
I suggest this record to everybody, the reprint is very cheap (I have paid it 5 euro) and every single note is worth, also because the cd practically picks up the whole repertoire of this artist and is in commerce in different editions. The historical one is from CBS jazz, the Sony it has reprinted it in the '80, but I can’t exclude other variations.
Charlie Christian died to alone in the 1942, 26 years old. Who knows what kind of music he would have been able to play for us …. but this is another history.. and we will never know it.

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