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SOLO  FLIGHT

THE  CHARLIE  CHRISTIAN  LEGACY

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SOLO FLIGHT

THE CHARLIE CHRISTIAN NEWSLETTERS

 



The Newsletters were initiated in 1995 in an attempt to reduce the amount of correspondence with other Charlie Christian fans.
That, of course, never happened—it merely took up more time than ever and the correspondence only increased with more fans joining in.
It did, however, enable the distribution of news to everyone at once.

Now, with the Internet, it has become much easier and faster to communicate with others.
And this Web site, hopefully, will make for a better way of getting out the news on Charles’ legacy.

These are the reproductions of the original Newsletters.  *
Much of the information has been updated and can be found in its respective section on this site.


 

Newsletter # 1:    1995

Includes details of the Charlie Christian Jazz Festival.
Record reviews of Volumes 1 - 4 of Media 7’s Masters of Jazz complete recordings on CD.
A score of an unrecorded and unpublished composition by CC.
And a reproduction of his birth certificate.


Newsletter # 2:    1996

Heralds the selection of CC as one of the “Top 25” most influential in jazz since 1970.
Concludes the review of the Masters of Jazz series with Volumes 5 - 8.
Transcriptions of  “Tea for Two” intro and an unreleased version of   “Stompin’ at the Savoy.”
Concludes with a book review of the Annual Review of Jazz Studies 6.


Newsletter # 3:    1997

Includes details of 9 newly discovered CC recordings, 3 book reviews, 4 CD reviews,
        a video review, and a list of recordings omitted from the Masters of Jazz series.
Contains two solo transcriptions – “Poor Butterfly” and the complete “Tea for Two,”
        an update to Clive Downs’ bibliography of published notations,
        and a detailed analysis of all the infamous spliced recordings.




*  The reproductions of the original Newsletters have been removed from this site to allow more space for other stuff.
Most of the material in the originals is available in the various sections here.
The few remaining items in the Newsletters that are not available elsewhere on the site have been retained below:




 

THE CHARLIE CHRISTIAN NEWSLETTERS

 

newsletters banner

 


 

SPRING 1995

Number 1

 

An Introduction to the  Premier Issue  was followed by:

 

CHARLIE CHRISTIAN JAZZ FESTIVAL

Ever since the festival was inaugurated in 1985, it had been held during the latter part of April or the first week of May.  This year the 11th annual Charlie Christian Jazz Festival will be held on July 29th, Charles’ 79th birthday anniversary, on the 300 block of N.E. Second Street in Oklahoma City.  That block of “Deep Deuce” was the center of activity during the time that Charles was developing and working in OKC.  Ruby’s Grill, where CC did much of his jamming, was located in a two-story building that still stands right in the middle of the block.  Charles’ going-away party was held at Ruby’s Grill on August 13, 1939 before he left OKC the following day for his audition with Benny Goodman in Los Angeles.  It was also the site of a welcome-home jam on January 11, 1940 during a two-week vacation that CC took from the sextet.  The Charlie Christian Jazz Festival is organized by Black Liberated Arts Center (BLAC), Inc., OKC.

[ The entire first article can be found in the Book Reviews section at  Charlie and The Deuce ]

 

ES-250 drawing

Charlie Christian’s Gibson ES-250
February 1941

 


HISTORICAL MARKERS

It had  been known for some time that Charles’ body had been interred in an unmarked grave at Gates Hill Cemetery in Bonham, Texas, but the exact location had remained a mystery.

Charlie Christian was born on July 29, 1916 at his parent’s home on 511 West Johnson Street in Bonham and lived there until his family moved to OKC in 1918.  I visited Bonham in 1990 and attempted to find the gravesite but was unsuccessful—the funeral home didn’t have a record of its location and the funeral director who had been present at the interment couldn’t recall the spot.  Thanks to the efforts of Garydon Rhodes, filmmaker and student at the University of Oklahoma who interviewed the local residents, the site was located a couple of years ago.

Last year a headstone, with the engraving of a guitar and the epitaph “YOUR MUSIC WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN,” was placed at Charlie Christian’s gravesite.  A Texas Historical Marker commemorating Charles was also erected in Bonham.  The dedications, sponsored by BLAC, Inc. and hosted by the Fannin County Museum of History, were held on April 23, 1994.  Notable among the fifty-or-so attendees were two charming ladies who also participate in each year’s Charlie Christian Jazz Festival, Billie Jean Christian Johnson, Charles’ daughter, and her mother, Margretta Lorraine Downey.

grave stone

 


CD REVIEWS

CHARLIE CHRISTIAN
VOLUMES 1 thru 4

MASTERS OF JAZZ
MJCD 24, 29, 40, 44

[ These four CD reviews are now in the CD Review section at  Masters of Jazz ]

 


BOOK UPDATE

D. Russell Connor, author of Benny Goodman: Listen To His Legacy, has been working on an update of his book which contains a considerable amount of information on the recorded performances and itinerary of the band.  He will not elaborate on the details but has indicated that the new edition will include a few previously undiscovered Charlie Christian items.  I hope they’re actually new and not just unpublished, especially if those recordings become available.

[ Connor’s book was published in 1996.  A brief description is in Clive Downs’
   “A Charlie Christian Bibliography”  at Discographies and Solographies” ]

 


COMPOSITON BY CHARLIE CHRISTIAN

This is the only handwritten composition by Charles known to exist.  I have transcribed it for guitar (an octave higher than written) from a hard-to-read photocopy of the original.  Many years ago, MARY LOU WILLIAMS had said that she had a composition written by Charlie Christian in her possession.  The original single-page manuscript was found four years ago among her papers with “Charlie Christen” [sic] written in Mary Lou’s handwriting across the top in place of a title.  The original is now at the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers.

An enchanting melody and, as can be expected from Charles, rhythmically complex.  Unfortunately, there are only a couple of chords (one is an F#7 at m. 21) indicated on the entire document leaving in question the exact intended harmony.  Since there are several interesting possibilities regarding the harmony, I would very much like to hear from everyone on their thoughts as to the best chords for this beautiful piece.

composition remake

 


CHARLIE CHRISTIAN’S DATE OF BIRTH

We still see today articles and CDs with various dates and places quoted for Charlie Christian’s birth.  I am publishing his birth certificate in hopes that it will impress the correct date on everyone that has the occasion to list his birth date.  The date of his death hasn’t been such a dilemma so I won’t include his certificate of death here, especially since it has the wrong date of birth on it.

Charlie Christian was born on Saturday, JULY 29, 1916 in BONHAM, TEXAS, about 85 highway miles northeast of Dallas (65 as the crow flies) .  He was only two years old when his family moved to Oklahoma City on November 13, 1918 via Paris, Texas.  When he joined the Benny Goodman band, he had just turned 23 years of age.

Charlie Christian was 25 YEARS OLD when he died of chronic pulmonary tuberculosis at Sea View Hospital on Staten Island in New York City on March 2, 1942 after 7 months, 21 days at that hospital.  He was transferred there on July 11, 1941 after spending about 3 weeks at Bellevue Hospital, NYC, where he was admitted after he became ill during a one-week gig which began on June 14 at the Cedar Point Ballroom in Sandusky, Ohio.

Birth Certificate

 


LOST RECORDINGS

According to the aforementioned Russ Connor, in the spring of 1941 Ralph Berton, son of drummer Vic Berton, was MC at a WNYC radio broadcast America in Swingtime where he recorded four tunes by the Goodman Sextet which have never been issued:  an untitled Blues, The Sheik of Araby, Gone With “What” Wind, and Stompin’ at the Savoy.  At least three of these contain solos by Charlie Christian.

[ This February 1941 session has been found and is now documented on this Web site. ]

 


SOLO FLIGHT:  THE BOOK

Periodically I am asked how I’m progressing on the book I’ve been working on.  I have completed my book on Charlie Christian a couple of times now only to decide to add or change something in it.  I had already transcribed all of Charles’ solos, riffs, obbligati and intros from approximately 200 different tunes—now I have decided to include a guitar tablature for all the solos and most of the others to show the left hand position and fingering.  On the tablature, I am also indicating the chords that CC denotes during his solos.  This would be a great help to anyone interested in analyzing or learning Charlie Christian’s solo style.

Even though I have been studying Charles’ solos for more than three decades, I occasionally gain new insight into his thinking while going through this exercise.  I am using a computer musical notation program to do this so it’s coming along quite well except for indicating which finger of the left hand to use—it’s somewhat slow and tedious to insert these using the computer.  But overall I’m very pleased with the performance of the Encore notation functions.  I would estimate that I’m about halfway through with the tablatures which have so far produced around 150 pages.

[ This Web site has superseded the publication of a book…at least for the foreseeable future. ]

 

The Great

CHARLIE CHRISTIAN with his Gibson ES-250
summer 1940

 

 


 

SPRING 1996

Number 2

 

CHARLIE CHRISTIAN SELECTED TO TOP 25

JazzTimes magazine announced the selection of Charlie Christian as one of the “25 Who Mattered Most” in the past twenty-five years; in the September 1995, 25th Anniversary Issue.

To commemorate its 25th anniversary, JazzTimes asked five noted critics to chose the 25 musicians who figured most prominently in shaping the course of jazz over the past quarter century: Who had the greatest impact on the music since 1970?

Bill Milkowski selected Charlie Christian to the elite group—54 years after Charles’ last recording!

with ES-150 at the Waldorf-Astoria, December 1939

The highly-regarded jazz journalist, Bill Milkowski, explained his selection:

“Charlie Christian was not the first guitar virtuoso in jazz, but for generations of guitar players he was the first one who mattered.  Through his hard-swinging legato lines and innovative use of electric guitar, Christian brought the instrument to the forefront in a way that no other guitarist had done…He took what was essentially a timekeeping instrument and totally reinvented it, crafting long, driving lines as powerful as any horn player’s…when Charlie Christian plugged in and swung with the force and ingenuity of a Lester Young, he blew them [earlier plectorists] all away.

“…He was the father of modern jazz guitar, the proto-bebopper, the bridge between the Swing Era and things to come.

“…what Christian did with the instrument in less than two years—from August of 1939 to June of 1941—turned the jazz world on its ear.  A gifted improviser with a rich tone, an impeccable sense of time and an innate, relaxed sense of swing, he was also a prophet…

“…His free-swinging, highly chromatic solos led to a whole new way of looking at the six-string instrument…his long lines were always bursting with energy, imagination and rhythmic verve, as if the instrument were merely a conduit for communicating his inner spirit.”

The excerpt above is heavily edited so you need to get the magazine to read the whole article and also find out who else was selected beside the usual greats like Duke, Monk, Bird, Miles, Coltrane, Ornette, Mingus, and Sun Ra.  Of course I can’t agree with all of the remaining choices.  I was surprised but glad to see the World Saxophone Quartet among the selections.  But no Basie! no Lady Day! and no Pres!

 


 

festival banner

 

July 29, 1995.  On the 79th anniversary of Charlie Christian’s birth, Oklahoma City held its twelfth annual Charlie Christian Jazz Festival.

[ This article can be found as the review for  in the Book Reviews section at
   The Charlie Christian Photo Collection  and  Legendary Times and Tales of Second Street ]

 

from the photo album

 


 

CD REVIEWS

 

CHARLIE CHRISTIAN
VOLUME 5
Nov.-Dec. 1940
MASTERS OF JAZZ MJCD 67

 

CHARLIE CHRISTIAN
VOLUME 6
1940 - 1941
MASTERS OF JAZZ MJCD 68

 

CHARLIE CHRISTIAN
VOLUME 7
FEB.-MARCH 1941
MASTERS OF JAZZ MJCD 74

 

CHARLIE CHRISTIAN
VOLUME 8
MARCH - JUNE 1941
MASTERS OF JAZZ MJCD 75

 

[ These four CD reviews are now in the CD Reviews section at  Masters of Jazz ]

 


TRANSCRIPTIONS

“Tea for Two”  Intro

The complete intro to “Tea for Two” has never been released on neither LP or CD.  Here is the transcription of the intro as it was originally recorded by Jerry Newhouse at the Harlem Breakfast Club in Minneapolis, Minnesota on September 24, 1939.

After their gig with the Goodman band at the Orpheum Theater in St. Paul, Charlie Christian and tenor saxophonist Jerry Jerome went to jam at the after-hours club where they were joined by two local musicians, pianist Frankie Hines and bassist Oscar Pettiford.

Charlie Christian plays the intro unaccompanied except for the bass on the last two bars.  The first half of the intro has never been issued.

[ This handscibed transcription of the Intro has been reformatted and can be found as part of the complete  “Tea for Two
  pages in the Transcriptions section ]

 

“Stompin’ at the Savoy”

On the two following pages is the transcription of the never-issued June 1941 incomplete aircheck of “Stompin’ at the Savoy” that I mentioned near the end of the CD Reviews.  I hope this one is issued soon so that everyone can the opportunity to hear how perfectly Charlie Christian’s beautiful chords are placed on the opening chorus.  As on the “Rose Room” recorded in the same month, his solo has more of a jamming flavor than is usual with the sextet.  CC really gets into his solo with good drive and intensity with the ensemble riffing behind him.  I get a kick out of the open low E-string he lets ring out at the beginning of the E7 on the bridge just before the recording goes askew.  He did the same thing on the third chorus of his first solo on the May 12, 1941 Minton’s version of “Stompin’….”

[ This handscibed transcription has been reformatted and can be found in the Transcriptions section at Stompin at the Savoy” ]

 


BOOK REVIEW

 

ANNUAL REVIEW OF
JAZZ STUDIES 6
1993

[ This book review is now in the Book-Video Reviews section at  ARJS 6 ]

 


NEXT ISSUE

In the next issue of SOLO FLIGHT:  THE CHARLIE CHRISTIAN NEWSLETTER, I hope to review the two CDs that I mentioned earlier:
        Charlie Christian:  Air-Checks and Private Recordings;  Suisa  JZCD 379 &
        “The Rehearsal Sessions”   1940-41  featuring Charlie Christian;  Jazz Unlimited  JUCD 2013

Also a recap of the CDs where you can find the few Charlie Christian recordings that were not included in the Masters of Jazz series.

Most importantly, I’ll have news on the recent issue on a Swedish CD of a never-before-available rendition of “Flying Home”   which was recorded on September 9, 1939 from the Camel Caravan radio broadcasts.  As usual, it features a 32-bar chorus by Charlie Christian with the Goodman sextet.


JAMMING AT RUBY’S GRILL ON SECOND STREET (“DEEP DEUCE”)
OKLAHOMA CITY       SUMMER 1940
Sam Hughes, atlto sax;  CHARLIE CHRISTIAN, ES-250;   Leslie Sheffield, piano;  Dick Wilson, tenor sax

The Lyons Den

 

 


 

SUMMER 1997

Number 3

 

“NEW” CHARLIE CHRISTIAN
RECORDINGS DISCOVERED

Nine previously unknown recordings were revealed in D. Russell Connor’s “final” book on Benny Goodman.

Russ Connor’s latest book, Wrappin’ It Up  (The Scarecrow Press, 1996, 179 pp), identified nine recordings of Charlie Christian that had never appeared in any previously published discographies.  All are radio broadcasts from the collection of audio engineer Bill Savory dating from November 1939 through April 1940.  I have not heard any of them yet; but, judging from other versions of these tunes, at least seven of them should have solos by Charlie Christian.

All nine airchecks are by the Benny Goodman Sextet with Christian, Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Artie Bernstein, Nick Fatool—Fletcher Henderson is on the first four, Johnny Guarnieri is on the others:

November 22, 1939               Waldorf-Astoria Hotel – NYC (CBS Radio)

“Flying Home”

December 4, 1939                 Waldorf-Astoria – NYC

“Honeysuckle Rose”

December 6, 1939                 Waldorf-Astoria – NYC

“Seven Come Eleven”

December 9, 1939                 Camel Caravan – NYC (NBC Radio)

“Pick-A-Rib”

December 21, 1939               Waldorf-Astoria – NYC

“Honeysuckle Rose”

January 15, 1940                   Broadcast to Scandinavia – NYC (NBC Radio)

“Star Dust”
“Flying Home”

April 5, 1940                          Cocoanut Grove – Los Angeles

“Soft Winds”

April 19, 1940                        Cocoanut Grove – Los Angeles

“I Surrender, Dear”

Connor’s book contains no additional info on CC other than the revelation of these airchecks.  Bill Savory is presently attempting to negotiate with Sony or PolyGram to issue his Goodman airchecks on five CDs.  Hopefully, these nine will be among them.

 


 

Profoundly Blue session

CC with an acoustic Gibson L5
February 5, 1941
Blue Note recording session

 


BOOK REVIEW

 

CHARLIE CHRISTIAN

By Peter Broadbent

 

[ This book review is now in the Book-Video Reviews section at  Charlie Christian ]

 


THE SPLICED RECORDINGS

 

[ These charts are now in  The Spliced Recordings  section ]

 


VIDEO REVIEW

 

SOLO FLIGHT:  THE GENIUS OF CHARLIE CHRISTIAN

written & directed by Gary Don Rhodes

 

[ The video is reviewed in the Book-Video Reviews section at  Solo Flight ]

 


CD REVIEWS

 

CHARLIE CHRISTIAN
AIR-CHECKS AND PRIVATE RECORDINGS

SUISA JZCD 379

 

BENNY GOODMAN
“THE REHEARSAL SESSIONS”
1940-1941
FEATURING CHARLIE CHRISTIAN

JAZZ UNLIMITED JUCD 2013

 

BENNY GOODMAN’S GOLDEN ERA:
MORE CAMEL CARAVANS,
Vol. III

PHONTASTIC NCD 8845/8846

 

THE HARLEM JAZZ SCENE
1941

VENUS TKCZ-36013
[24-bit-24kt Gold-Special Limited Version]

VENUS TKCZ-79502
[20-bit version]

 

[ All of these CDs are reviewed in the  CD Reviews  section ]

 


THE MISSING MJCD RECORDINGS

 

[ This article can be found as part of the Masters of Jazz reviews in the CD Reviews section at  “The Missing MJCD Recordings” ]

 


MORE BOOK REVIEWS

 

ANNUAL REVIEW OF
JAZZ STUDIES 7
1994-95

 

THE GUITAR IN JAZZ
AN ANTHOLOGY

Edited by James Sallis

 

[ Both book reviews are now in the  Book-Video Reviews  section ]

 


TRANSCRIPTIONS

 

“Poor Butterfly”

In keeping with our traditional policy of publishing transcriptions of never-released Charlie Christian solos, here’s one that was broadcast from the Cocoanut Grove on 27 April 1940 during the band’s four-month tour of the West Coast.  This version of “Poor Butterfly” is the only other known recording of the tune besides the studio rendition recorded 3� weeks before by the same sextet personnel: Christian, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Johnny Guarnieri, Artie Bernstein, and Nick Fatool.  As on the studio version, this one is also 2� choruses long, but with Hampton getting a full chorus instead of sharing half with Guarnieri as on the previous version.

Charlie again gets only eight bars for his solo, which he begins by rhythmically paraphrasing a bar and a half of the melody before going into his usual improvisation.  The fourth bar starts out sounding like an Ab phrase but ends up being a Bb7.  Then CC plays a startling C#7 over the C7+5 harmony before repeating the phrase in C7.  On the last bar of the solo, he again surprises the listener with a sudden move up in pitch—especially unexpected if one is familiar with his solo on the other version of the tune—anticipating the melody that follows.

[ The transcription and tab are in the Transcriptions section at  “Poor Butterfly” ]

 

“Tea for Two”

While committing “Tea for Two” to tablature format, I noticed that a couple of accidentals had been left out of the intro that I had published in the last newsletter: a natural is missing from the first measure and another from the third.  It seems that the majority of my transcription errors are omitted natural signs; next in persistant annoyance are absent sixteenth rests.  Computerizing the transcriptions has helped tremendously.

I had planned to just publish a written correction to the omissions; however, a request from a reader for the intro in tab format (possibly because of the truant signs) prompted me to print the correction in tablature and standard notation.  Clive Downs’ comments on the solo (see his supplemental article following this section) caused the publication of the complete transcription.  Since this solo transcription is from an issued recording, I expect to receive more than the usual critique on this one.

The chord symbols placed above the standard notation are the simplified chords of the tune.  The chords above the tab staff represent the basic harmony of Charlie Christian’s solo.  These are placed as close as possible to the beginning of the corresponding phrase.  This is sometimes difficult because usually, on his solos, Christian plays several overlapping notes that belong to both chords as he plays through the changes, especially on connecting 7th chords which are common on the bridge of many tunes.  Due to the harmonic structure of “Tea for Two,” this doesn’t occur nearly as often on this particular piece.

[ The transcription and tab are in the Transcriptions section at  “Tea for Two” ]

 


RECENTLY PUBLISHED
AND
NEWLY DISCOVERED SOLO TRANSCRIPTIONS

 

By  CLIVE G. DOWNS

 

In 1993, the Annual Review of Jazz Studies published an article providing a comprehensive list of published notations of solos by Charlie Christian:  “An Annotated Bibliography of Notated Charlie Christian Solos,”  pp. 153-186.  Below are details of solo transcriptions published since the article appeared, and also some other additional items of earlier date which have come to light since then.  As in the original article, the relevant recording date and a recent CD issue of the track in question are included.

[ This addendum to Clive’s bibliography has been incorporated into the complete biblio in the Bibliographies section
  at the  Bibliography of Notated Charlie Christian Solos ]

 


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