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The most significant Compact Discs featuring Charlie Christian are reviewed on these pages.

The nine volumes in the Charlie Christian Masters of Jazz series are the most important of those
and, accordingly, receive track-by-track commentary on a separate exclusive page.

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click on the title of the CDs listed in the following table
to read the reviews

CD Title


Catalog Number


Introduction to the Charlie Christian Masters of Jazz series

Charlie Christian,  Volume 1     (August 19 - October 31, 1939) Masters of Jazz MJCD 24
Charlie Christian,  Volume 2     (November 4 - December 24, 1939) Masters of Jazz MJCD 29
Charlie Christian,  Volume 3     (December 2, 1939 - June 4, 1940) Masters of Jazz MJCD 40
Charlie Christian,  Volume 4     (June 11 - November 7, 1940) Masters of Jazz MJCD 44
Charlie Christian,  Volume 5     (November 7 - December 19, 1940) Masters of Jazz MJCD 67
Charlie Christian,  Volume 6     (December 19, 1940 - February 5, 1941) Masters of Jazz MJCD 68
Charlie Christian,  Volume 7     (February 10 - March 13, 1941) Masters of Jazz MJCD 74
Charlie Christian,  Volume 8     (March 13 - June 1941) Masters of Jazz MJCD 75

Recordings omitted from the Charlie Christian Masters of Jazz series listed above

Charlie Christian,  Volume 9     (September 2, 1939 - June 1941) Masters of Jazz MJCD 189

Recordings omitted from the Charlie Christian Masters of Jazz series including Volume  9

A Tour de Force:  The Small Groups—Live Encore 7001
Charlie Christian:  Air-Checks and Private Recordings Suisa JZCD 379
“The Rehearsal Sessions”  1940-1941   Featuring Charlie Christian Jazz Unlimited JUCD 2013
More Camel Caravans, Vol. III Phontastic NCD 8845/8846
The Harlem Jazz Scene  1941 Venus TKCZ-36013
Camel Caravan Shows Jazz Band EBCD 2138-2
EBCD 2139-2
Jerry Jerome:  Something Old, Something New Arbors ARCD 19168
The Lionel Hampton All Star Sessions, Vol. 2:  Hot Mallets Avid AMSC 612
Ida Cox:  I Can’t Quit My Man Affinity AFS 1015
Ida Cox:  Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 5:  1939-1940 Document DOCD-5651
From Spirituals to Swing Vanguard 169/71-2
Charlie Christian:  The Genius of the Electric Guitar SME / Sony SRCS 9612
Charlie Christian – Complete Studio Recordings Definitive DRCD11176
Charlie Christian – Complete Live Recordings Definitive DRCD11177


A complete roster of the musicians on these recordings can be found in the SOLOGRAPHY section  (listed by date)

Additional information on the CDs is in the ALBUM INDEX located in the DISCOGRAPHY section  (listed by label)

Reviews of most tunes can be found on Jan Evensmo’s excellent solography
The Guitar of Charles Henry Christian “Charlie” (pdf format, sequenced by session date)
in the superb booklets that accompany the Masters of Jazz series CDs reviewed on this site
in the “Comments & Analysis” segment on the “Title Page” of each tune
in the TRANSCRIPTIONS section on this site
(those title pages are also accessible thru the SOLOGRAPHY and TUNES sections)




Volumes  1 thru 9


MJCD 24, 29, 40, 44, 67, 68, 74, 75, 189

This series of CDs, produced in France on Media 7’s Masters of Jazz label, is one of the best and most complete ever issued on any artist in jazz.  Nine volumes were released containing all available recordings on which Charlie Christian is prominently featured.  This includes studio masters, alternate takes, radio broadcasts, and jam sessions.

Assembled between 1992 and 1994, the first eight volumes were about an hour long and came with excellent 28 to 40-page booklets (in French and English) containing good-quality photos, great track-by-track commentary and a discography identifying the soloists.  In 2001, a ninth volume with the same type of quality booklet was released with many ultra-rare recordings not included in the original eight volumes.  This is the best anthology we’ll likely ever see on Charlie Christian.

Due to the magnitude and complexity of the Masters of Jazz series reviews,
they have been consigned to their own specially designated page  HERE.





ENCORE   7001

[ USA,  2001;  double-CD, 38 tracks – 2:01:59 ]



This double-CD was released on November 17, 2001 by A & B Productions containing two previously-unreleased tunes from the “America in Swingtime” broadcast in February 1941.  The set includes 38 tracks recorded live between 1937 and 1972 by various BG combos.

Only four of the tracks were recorded during Charlie Christian’s tenure. All four were broadcast from NYC and appear on
Disc One:

Track 15  –  “AC-DC Current”     December 2, 1939     Camel Caravan  aircheck     2:14
          CC:  4-bar intro,  riffs,  two 4-bar solos
          Previously released on Definitive Records (Andorra) and
Masters of Jazz (France) CD.

Track 16  –  “Gone With ‘What’ Wind”     February 19, 1941     “America in Swingtime” broadcast     3:06
          CC:  2-chorus blues solo, 3 choruses of riffs with the ensemble, 12 bars of riffs behind the clarinet on the out-chorus
          Previously unreleased !
          This aircheck has never been available in any format before now.

Track 17  –  “The Sheik of Araby”     February 19, 1941     “America in Swingtime” broadcast     2:27
          CC:  no solos
          Previously unreleased, but there's nothing of Christian interest here.

Track 18  –  “Gone With What Draft”     February 24, 1941     What’s New?—The Old Gold Show  aircheck     2:37
          CC:  4-bar intro,  riffs,  2 + 6-bar solo on the 12-bar cadenza
          Previously released on Definitive Records (Andorra),
Masters of Jazz (France), and Suisa (Italy) CD.

Charles’ 24-bar solo on this “Gone With ‘What’ Wind” is at least as good as you can find on any other version and the only place you can get it is on this CD.

Personnel details on the four tracks can be viewed in the Solography section under the respective date.

Reviewed by LeoValdes—February 27, 2002






[ Italy,  1993;  16 tracks – 45:49 ]



This CD remains a significant collection of Charlie Christian recordings:  it contains the only release of the two 24 September 1939 Minneapolis jam session takes of “I Got Rhythm” ever issued complete and unspliced.

Prior to the issue of the Masters of Jazz 8-CD set, this had been an absolutely essential release.  In addition to the “I Got Rhythm” takes, it contains many rare recordings that had never come out on CD.  Most of the tracks had only surfaced on bootleg LPs.  It was the first time that the 6 June 1941 “Rose Room” aircheck from Madison Square Garden became available on CD.  The first bar of Charles’ four-bar intro is missing but is otherwise in good shape sonically, especially during CC’s 24-bar solo.  Incidentally, the 14 April 1941 “Breakfast Feud” aircheck was also issued incomplete here, omitting the four-bar piano intro.

With the exception of the complete “I Got Rhythm” takes, the Masters of Jazz collection contains all the other tracks on this Suisa CD.   Unfortunately, the missing intros were left out on that set also.

The 16-track details can be viewed in the Discography section listed under the label Suisa.

This CD review was originally published in the 1997 Solo Flight: The Charlie Christian Newsletter # 3. © LeoValdes

[Both takes of “I Got Rhythm” have now been reissued (October 2001) in their entirety on Masters of Jazz MJCD 189, Charlie Christian • Volume 9.]








[ Denmark,  1993;  17 tracks – 71:26 ]



Another indispensable Charlie Christian CD, this one contains material from Columbia studio sessions which is not duplicated in the Masters of Jazz series.

November 7, 1940

“Wholly Cats”  includes the four rehearsal takes but not the two takes that were issued on 78-rpm.
All are on Masters of Jazz except the take that breaks down prior to Charlie Christian’s solo.

“Royal Garden Blues”     all three takes, which are also on Masters of Jazz.

“Benny’s Bugle”     the entire uninterrupted session during the recording of this tune, all on one track of the CD—more on this later.

December 19, 1940

“Breakfast Feud”     take 1 only.

“Gone with What Draft”     all four takes.
Masters of Jazz does not include the take that breaks down just after the completion of the cadenza that features CC.

January 15, 1941

“Breakfast Feud”     all four takes.
This CD contains the only complete and unspliced versions of takes 4 and 3 that have been issued.  These two takes are spliced on all other issues except Masters of Jazz where take 4 is faded out after the CC solo and another track contains only the refrain and solo from take 3.


Listening to the entire 27˝-minute recordings of “Benny’s Bugle” is intriguing but it sure doesn’t make for casual nor repeated listening.  It is, however, interesting to hear how the tune developed all the way to the final take.  Besides the main takes, there are numerous false starts and other tune segments scattered about.  And it’s a delight to hear Charlie Christian’s riffing between takes throughout the session, but what I found most fascinating was a couple of conversations between Charlie and Benny after the penultimate take.

Many that were familiar with their relationship have mentioned that Benny Goodman treated Charles much differently than he did most of the other musicians and associates.  He was more tolerant and had more patience with Charles than with others, somewhat as if CC were a favorite nephew—Goodman’s promise to Charles’ mother to take good care of him may have had something to do with this also.  There is evidence of that in the conversations on this track.  On both occurrences Benny tries to get Charles to turn the volume down a bit on the first chorus of his two-chorus blues solo, but CC resists with a rather flaky excuse and frustrates Goodman.  Benny never raised his voice nor sounded cross or demanding during either exchange as he was known to do with others.

I suspect the two takes that broke down during CC’s solos were stopped due to Goodman not liking the start of those solos.  I also speculate that, due to Charlie Christian’s phenomenal talent and his natural leadership in a musical environment, Benny intuitively considered him more of an equal than a subordinate and didn’t display his arrogance or overbearing nature when dealing with him.  The final take indicates that Charles didn’t much heed Goodman’s suggestion on this particular tune.  Charlie Christian was a very amiable, easy-going guy but when it came to his music, he was a headstrong individual with his own definite ideas.  This is particularly evident during the recorded jam sessions.

The 17-track, 22-take details can be viewed in the Discography section listed under the label Jazz Unlimited.

This CD review was originally published in the 1997 Solo Flight: The Charlie Christian Newsletter # 3. © LeoValdes

[The takes of “Benny’s Bugle,” “Gone with What Draft,” “Breakfast Feud” omitted from the original Masters of Jazz series
have now been reissued (October 2001) in their entirety on Masters of Jazz MJCD 189, Charlie Christian • Volume 9.





Volume III

PHONTASTIC   NCD 8845/8846

[ Sweden,  1995;  double-CD,  41 tracks – 2:00:04 ]



Charlie Christian appears on only two tracks on this double CD.  As the CD title denotes, both are from Camel Caravan airchecks.  One is the 2 September 1939 “Star Dust” from the Michigan State Fair in Detroit which wasn’t commercially available until its release on the Masters of Jazz series in 1992.

The other aircheck with CC is not in the Masters of Jazz collection nor had it ever been issued before in any format.  The 9 September 1939 “Flying Home” broadcast from Radio City Studios in New York City is now available for the very first time on the second disc of this set.  The routine is the same as on the version from three weeks prior except that the piano intro is stretched to 12 bars to accommodate the MC’s commentary.

Definitely another essential compact disc set.

This CD review was originally published in the 1997 Solo Flight: The Charlie Christian Newsletter # 3. © LeoValdes

[“Flying Home” has now been released (March 2001) on a Definitive Records 4-CD set DRCD11177,
Charlie Christian • Complete Live Recordings
[“Flying Home” has been reissued (October 2001) on Masters of Jazz MJCD 189, Charlie Christian • Volume 9.]





VENUS   TKCZ-36013

[ Japan,  1996;  24-bit—24kt Gold—Special Limited Version;
9 tracks – 51:21 ]

VENUS   TKCZ-79502

[ Japan,  1995;  20-bit version;  9 tracks – 51:57 ]



Ten years ago, all six available CC recordings from the Minton’s / Monroe’s sessions were issued, together for the first time, on Charlie Christian / Dizzy Gillespie — 1941 Historical Performances, Vogue CD 600135.  Despite the back inserts listing only five CC tunes, these two Japanese CDs are identical in content to the French Vogue, including three Dizzy Gillespie tunes.

These sessions were also issued on volume 8 of the Masters of Jazz series on Charlie Christian.  Unfortunately, a lot of extra crowd noise was on the MoJ release.  Incidentally, the never-issued “Stompin’ at the Savoy” recorded on 8 May 1941 at Minton’s is not on these CDs either.

These are not essential CDs if you already have these tracks, but if you want these jam sessions with, by far, the best sound, or if you don’t have the Vogue, you’ll want to get one of these.  I would go for the gold.

Details on the 6 CC tracks can be viewed in the Discography section listed under the label Venus.

This CD review was originally published in the 1997 Solo Flight: The Charlie Christian Newsletter # 3. © LeoValdes





14 OCTOBER 1939  &  28 OCTOBER 1939


[ UK,  1997;  19 tracks – 53:17 ]





4 NOVEMBER 1939  &  18 NOVEMBER 1939


[ UK,  1997;  20 tracks – 54:46 ]


The complete broadcasts of four Saturday night Camel Caravan shows are on these two individual CDs.  Most of the tracks are orchestral numbers with a couple of vocals—the usual routine on these half-hour shows—with one tune by the sextet, occasionally two.

Louis Armstrong guests on two numbers on 14 October:  on “Ain’t Misbehavin’” with the sextet [no Charlie Christian solo] plus the orchestra on 16 bars and on “Shadrack” with the rhythm section [less CC] & The Lynn Murray Choir.  Louise Tobin is the vocalist on one tune with the orchestra.  The selection for the sextet on this date is a previously-issued “AC-DC Current” with Charles getting his usual 4-bar intro and two 4-bar breaks.

The 28 October show has the orchestra, with two vocals by Mildred Bailey, on all the tracks except one. And that one track is the primary reason for making this an essential CD.  It’s the only release of this version of “Rose Room” with a wonderful full-chorus solo by Charlie Christian.

The orchestra, with Mildred Bailey taking two vocals, is again on all the 4 November tracks except for the sextet’s first rendition of “Six Appeal” on which CC has a chorus shared with the clarinet on the break.  The sextet tune from this aircheck has been previously issued.

On 18 November Mildred Bailey gets three vocals with the orchestra.   The sextet gets one selection:  a most unusual “South of the Border.”  Charles chords an 8-bar intro along with the piano, then goes into 32 bars of boogie riffs! behind the melody played by the clarinet;  CC then plays the melody break for 8 bars over a rhumba rhythm before going into 16 more bars of boogie riffs.  After solos by vibes, bass, and clarinet, the sextet takes it out with CC playing amplified chord fills.  This may not be the most essential CC but it’s got to be heard.

Reviewed by LeoValdes—July 29, 1999

[Both “Rose Room” and “South of the Border” have now been released (October 2001) on Masters of Jazz MJCD 189, Charlie Christian • Volume 9.]






[ USA,  1997;  double-CD,  38 tracks – 2:21:17 ]



There’s a lot of fun stuff on this double CD by the Lester Young-inspired tenor saxophonist Jerry Jerome who was with the Goodman orchestra from December 1938 through July 1940.  Jerome also played with the swing bands of Glenn Miller, Red Norvo, and Artie Shaw.

The “something old” part of the set is on the first CD:   jam sessions, radio shows, unissued studio recordings, and a bunch of jazzy jingles from beer and cigarette commercials—all from the mid-forties to early sixties.   The collective personnel includes Teddy Wilson, Charlie Shavers, Henry ‘Red’ Allen, Yank Lawson, Bobby Hackett, Tyree Glenn, Johnny Guarnieri, Dave Tough, and lots of other cats having a swingin’ good time.

The “something new” second disc is a straight-ahead septet, featuring Jerry Jerome, recorded in 1996.  An excellent swing session.

So what’s that got to do with Charlie Christian?  Well, in September of 1939 CC and Jerry Jerome jammed at an after-hours club in Minneapolis after their gig with Goodman in St. Paul.  Four recordings were made that night—the first track on this set has the only complete “Tea for Two” from that legendary jam session.  All other issues are missing the first 4 bars of Charles’ 8-bar chord intro and the first eight bars of Jerome’s second solo.   Obviously CC’s intro sounds that much more remarkable with the first half restored; and it’s no longer disconcerting to hear an incomplete chorus in the middle of a tune.

Even if you don’t need the complete “Tea for Two,” Jerry Jerome’s out-of-the-ordinary album is still highly recommended.

Reviewed by LeoValdes—July 29, 1999

[“Tea for Two” has now been reissued (October 2001) in its entirety on Masters of Jazz MJCD 189,
Charlie Christian • Volume 9.




Volume 2



[ UK,  1997;  double-CD,  50 tracks – 2:29:49 ]



Charlie Christian recorded two different studio sessions with Lionel Hampton & His Orchestra.  This double-CD is the only one that has all of the takes from both sessions in one set.  A six-LP box set, The Complete Lionel Hampton • 1937-1941 (Bluebird AXM6-5536), was released in 1976, also with both sessions, but that’s been long out-of-print.

Four titles were recorded on September 11, 1939 in a session that, besides Charlie Christian and Lionel Hampton, included soloists such as trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, alto saxophonist Benny Carter, tenor saxophonists Chu Berry, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and pianist Clyde Hart.  Three of the numbers were arranged by the exceptionally talented Benny Carter.  The unity of the rhythm section (Christian, Hart, Milt Hinton, and Cozy Cole) is incredible, especially on Carter’s “When Lights Are Low”—the best rendition I’ve heard of this tune.

The second Christian-with-Hampton session occured on October 12, 1939 when three titles were recorded.  Charles and Lionel are joined this time by alto saxophonist Earl Bostic, trumpeter Henry ‘Red’ Allen, trombonist J.C. Higginbotham, Clyde Hart again, bassist Artie Bernstein, and drummer Sid Catlett.  The musical level reached on the other Hampton session is not quite matched here but it is, nevertheless, a much better than average recording date.

The first volume of the Charlie Christian Masters of Jazz series has only one title from each recording date—the two that best showcase CC—but the complete sessions are well worth listening to, particularly the one from September 11th.   And there’s a whole lot of really good music on the non-CC sessions, ranging from April 1937 though August 1940, as well.

Details on the 9 CC tracks can be viewed in the Discography section listed under the label Avid.

Reviewed by LeoValdes—July 29, 1999






[ UK,  1991;  19 tracks – 55:02 ]



This CD has eleven of the twelve issued takes from the Ida Cox & Her All-Star Band studio sessions that Charlie Christian participated in on October 31, 1939.  A total of seven titles were recorded, and all are very slow 8-bar and 12-bar blues.  On the morning session, CC was joined by clarinetist Edmond Hall, trumpeter Hot Lips Page, trombonist J.C. Higginbotham, pianist James P. Johnson, bassist Artie Bernstein, and Lionel Hampton on drums;  Fletcher Henderson replaced Johnson on piano for the afternoon session.  Charles doesn’t solo on any of the tracks but he does have several intros and plays a whole lot of obbligati throughout the sessions.  The Masters of Jazz series has one track on the first volume for a representative sample.  If you want to hear more of Charlie Christian playing some of the bluesiest, down-home phrases he ever recorded, this is the CD to get—just be prepared for a lot of similar material at a slow tempo.

A little over a year later Ida Cox recorded another session that included Henry ‘Red’ Allen and, again, Higginbotham and Hall.  The eight tracks from that date are on here as well.  This CD has the best work of Ida’s later prime years.

Details on the 11 CC tracks can be viewed in the Discography section listed under the label Affinity.

Reviewed by LeoValdes—July 29, 1999

[This CD is now out-of-print.  The Document CD shown below has released the same takes.]






[ Austria,  2000;  19 tracks – 56:25 ]



This CD has the same nineteen tracks as the Affinity AFS 1015 above.
The Document CD has all tracks sequenced in chronological order, while the Affinity had the alternate takes at the end.
This newer CD has the better sound.

Details on the 11 CC tracks can be viewed in the Discography section listed under the label Document.

Reviewed by LeoValdes—May 29, 2001




The Legendary 1938 & 1939 Carnegie Hall Concerts

VANGUARD   169/71-2

[ USA,  1999;  3-CD box set,  57 tracks – 2:50:59 ]



Both of the From Spirituals to Swing concerts have finally been issued in their entirety in this 3-CD box set, including 23 previously unreleased tracks.  Charlie Christian participated in the second concert of December 24, 1939 with the Goodman sextet, with the Kansas City Six, and in a jam session on “Oh, Lady Be Good.”  On the jam, Charles took a 3-chorus solo and an 8-bar bridge solo.  All previous releases of this tune had edited out the third chorus of his first solo—more specifically, from the 32nd bar of the second chorus to the 31st bar of the third.  This box has now made the complete solo available for the very first time.  Unfortunately, and most curiously, the 8-bar piano intro by Basie is now missing.

According to the notes, the original unedited tapes were used when possible.  All tracks on this set were pitch-corrected and digitally remastered using CEDAR technology.  It includes a 44-page booklet with interesting notes on the sessions and some 18 photos—also a reprint of the 20-page 1938 concert program.

Details on the 9 CC tracks can be viewed in the Discography section listed under the label Vanguard.

Reviewed by LeoValdes—September 30, 1999

[“Oh, Lady Be Good” has now been released (March 2001) in its entirety on Definitive Records DRCD11177,
Charlie Christian • Complete Live Recordings
[“Oh, Lady Be Good” has been reissued (October 2001) in its entirety on Masters of Jazz MJCD 189,
Charlie Christian • Volume 9.






[ Japan,  2000;  24-bit;  16 tracks – 49:54 ]



This is a recent Japanese 24-bit reissue of the original Charlie Christian CD released in 1987, Columbia CK 40846.  It contains the same material, in the same sequence, but the improvement in sound quality is so significant that it deserves special mention here.

This album includes some of the best of CC’s solos that Columbia Records recorded and may be the best single-CD intduct1ion to Charles’ artistry.  It’s a tremendous pleasure to hear this music with such incredible clarity.  I’ll go so far as to say that this is an essential reissue—well worth the double-sawbuck to replace that old, now-obsolete original....or even if you have all the MJCDs.  Get it or regret it—I don’t think it’ll be in-print for long.

The 16-track details can be viewed in the Discography section listed under the label SME / Sony.

Reviewed by LeoValdes—January 24, 2001





Columbia, RCA Victor, Vocalion & Blue Note
Master Takes


[ Andorra,  2001;  24-bit;  4-CD set,  73 tracks – 3:56:14 ]






[ Andorra,  2001;  24-bit;  4-CD set,  67 tracks – 3:55:14 ]


Disconforme S.L. (Andorra) released these two 4-CD sets on the Definitive Records label in March 2001.  Remastered at 24-bit resolution, the tracks are arranged in chronological order (except for one track) within their category.   Unfortunately, there’s no previously unissued tracks.

These CD sets beg comparison with the CD series that was issued by Media 7 (France) on the Masters of Jazz label from 1992 to 1994.  Here’s a comparison table for quick review:

Masters of Jazz Definitive Records
Number of CDs 8 8
Resolution 16-bit 24-bit
Total time 8:33:55 7:51:28
Number of tracks 149 140
Booklets 34 pages  (avg./CD) 5-page foldout  (per set)
Approx. list price $16.00  each $21.00  set of 4

Sound:  The MoJs sound very good but the DRs are excellent, especially on the studio tracks.

Time:  MoJs are 42 minutes, 27 seconds longer—but see tracks discussion next.

Tracks:  Charlie Christian is featured on all 149 MoJ tracks.  The DRs contain 10 tracks where CC is playing only rhythm guitar, reducing the featured tracks to 130 so MoJ really has 19 more tracks than DR where CC is featured.   There are 21 tracks on the DRs that are not on the MoJs which complicates comparison a bit, but maybe by listing those tracks you can see the situation better:

                     Complete Studio Recordings   [tracks not released on Masters of Jazz series]
                               Disc One:
                              Track   1 – When Lights Are Low                           11 Sep 39     (take -1)
                                                              (CC on rhythm only)
                                            3 – Hot Mallets                                            11 Sep 39
                                                              (CC on rhythm only)
                                            4 – Early Session Hop                                11 Sep 39
                                                              (CC on rhythm only)
                                            8 – I’m On My Way From You                  12 Oct 39
                                                              (CC on rhythm only)
                                          10 – THE HEEBIE JEEBIES                          12 Oct 39     (take -1)
                                                               CC obbligati  (32; 12 bars)
                                          11 – DEEP SEA BLUES                                31 Oct 39     (take -1)     [take -2 is on MoJ]
                                                              CC intro        (4 bars)
                                                              CC obbligati  (16 bars)
                                          12 – DEATH LETTER BLUES                     31 Oct 39     (take -1)
                                                              CC obbligati  (12; 8 bars)
                                          13 – ONE HOUR MAMA                            31 Oct 39     (take -X)
                                                              CC intro  (4 bars)
                                                              CC tag    (4 bars)
                                          14 – FOUR HOUR CREEP                            31 Oct 39
                                                              CC obbligati  (12 bars)
                                          15 – PINK SLIP BLUES                                31 Oct 39
                                                              CC intro        (4 bars)
                                                              CC obbligati  (12 bars)
                                          16 – HARD TIME BLUES                            31 Oct 39
                                                              CC obbligati  (12 bars)
                                          17 – TAKE HIM OFF MY MIND                31 Oct 39
                                                              CC obbligati  (12 bars)
                              Disc Two:
                                            5 – King Porter Stomp                                  7 Feb 40     (take -A)
                                                              (CC on rhythm only)
                                          13 – JUST LIKE TAKING CANDY            30 Apr 40
                                                              CC riffs  (8 bars)
                                          17 – Old Fashioned Love                               4 Oct 40
                                                              (CC on rhythm only)
                                          19 – Exactly Like You                                      4 Oct 40
                                                              (CC on rhythm only)
                              Disc Three:
                                          12 – Bugle Call Rag                                        16 Jan 41
                                                              (CC on rhythm only)

                     Complete Live Recordings   [tracks not released on Masters of Jazz series]
                              Disc One:
                                            3 – FLYING HOME                                        9 Sep 39
                                                              CC solo  (32-bar chorus)
                              Disc Two:
                                            2 – I Got Rhythm                                          24 Dec 39
                                                              (CC on rhythm only)
                                            5 – Stompin’ at the Savoy                          24 Dec 39
                                                              (CC on rhythm only)
                                          10 – OH,  LADY BE GOOD                           24 Dec 39
                                                              Two CC solos  (three 32-bar choruses; one 8-bar bridge)
                                                              This is the complete take which had never been released in any format.
                                                              (MoJ had released it but omitted the 3rd chorus of CC’s first solo.)

You can go to the Albums Index of the Discography section to see the complete track listings under the Definitive label.

Booklets:  No contest.  MoJ has an excellent “mini-book” in each volume, ranging between 28 and 40 pages, with discography / solography, engaging and insightful session-by-session, track-by-track discussion, and several photos.  DR has only the bare essentials, but…the dates, locations, and personnel data are impeccable—they were all taken from my discography, although without any kind of permission, acknowledgement, or even a thank you.  The studio takes quoted, however, are not flawless.  The total number of pages for the MoJ is about 340, but they’re in French and repeated in English so that’s really about 170 pages for the series compared to 10 pages of text for both DR sets.

Price:  Can’t beat the DR bargain.

Nitpicks and other comments:

Complete Studio Recordings  is subtitled “Columbia, RCA Victor, Vocalion & Blue Note Master Takes” and the foldout says “…only the master takes (the takes actually selected for release)…[on the first three discs]” but there are six tracks on those three discs that were never original releases.  Not a big deal, except the “master” take (-4) of “Breakfast Feud” on disc three, track 8, is faded out on the 4-bar refrain following CC’s solo leaving out the tenor sax solo, out-chorus theme, and the tag.  There’s another take (-1) on disc four but that’s also an alternate.  The actual master take (-2) of “Breakfast Feud” is nowhere to be found.

Disc 4 contains 3 alternate takes and the outstanding 28 Oct 40 studio rehearsal with Lester Young, Buck Clayton and the rhythm section from Count Basie’s band.  Every track on both sets is in chronological sequence except for track 2 on disc 4 of this set.

It also includes, in its entirety, Charles’ fantastic 21-minute “Waitin’ for Benny” jam session recorded on 13 Mar 41. The six tunes recorded during that jam are found here on five tracks. The session runs straight through but each tune is indexed on a separate track except for two.  I can’t figure why the two tunes are not indexed separately unless it was too difficult to find where one ends and the other begins—I suppose it is kind of hard.  The only other CD that contains this extraordinary jam is the 7th volume of the MoJ series (all on one track).   Sure makes it easier to find a particular tune when each has its own track.   This session really belongs on the Live set but it wouldn’t have fit there and it was recorded in a studio so this is a good place for it.

My biggest complaint is that there was more than enough room on this last disc for at least half-a-dozen more alternate takes.  I especially would have liked to have the alternate takes of “I Found a New Baby” and “Solo Flight” on this set.  And the alternates to “Memories of You” and “As Long As I Live” and the two alternate takes of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” which have 8-bar or 16-bar CC solos that are just as good or better than the masters.

Charles takes a nice 6-bar solo on the master of “Li’l Boy Love” (25 Jun 40) which could easily have been inserted in the second disc.

Complete Live Recordings  also has a few faults.  First off, two essential recordings that were not included here are “Rose Room” (28 Oct 39) and “South of the Border” (18 Nov 39).  Both airchecks are available only on CD on the Jazz Band label.   “Opus ˝” (23 Sep 39) was also left out but it’s not an essential track.  It’s only been released on a Queen-Disc LP.

Then there’s the Minneapolis jam:  the two takes of “I Got Rhythm” are spliced together (as usual) omitting a piano intro and large parts of two tenor sax solos.  And the first 4 bars of CC’s “Tea for Two” intro are missing as well as 8 bars of a sax solo (also as usual).  The complete “Rhythm” takes have been released on Suisa JZCD 379 and the complete “Tea for Two” on Arbors ARCD 19168.

There are five airchecks here that are missing various parts of the intros—but then no one else has ever issued them complete (the complete recordings do exist).  And, unfortunately, “Topsy” is here in its 78-rpm, noisy-crowd version.

However, as previously mentioned, DR does have the “Flying Home” (9 Sep 39) that MoJ left out.  This one has been previously issued only once—on a Phontastic double-CD.  And the never-before-issued-in-its-entirety “Oh, Lady Be Good” is here as well.

The Definitive sets certainly have better sound and a most attractive bargain price, but the Masters of Jazz remain the definitive, desert-island pick.  I anticipate that the forthcoming release of volume 9 of the Masters of Jazz series will more than remedy their present shortcomings and increase their desirability.

The Masters of Jazz series is reviewed at the top of this page.

Reviewed by LeoValdes—April 7, 2001

[“Just Like Taking Candy from a Baby,” “Flying Home,” and the complete “Oh, Lady Be Good”
have now been released (October 2001) on Masters of Jazz MJCD 189, Charlie Christian • Volume 9.



The following is an English translation of a review of the above Definitive sets by Fernando Ortiz de Urbina
which appeared in Cuadernos de Jazz

Review originally published in Spanish in Cuadernos de Jazz, issue 65, July/August 2001

Charlie Christian: Complete Studio Recordings   (Definitive 11176-2)   (4 CDs)
Rating:  5/5 stars.

Charlie Christian: Complete Live Recordings   (Definitive 11177-2)   (4 CDs)
Rating:  4/5 stars.

In just 23 months, between 1939 and 1941, Charlie Christian managed to turn the world’s attention to the electric guitar, before his untimely death at the age of 25.  His relevance as a musician has been obscured by his proficiency as a guitarist and by the fact that he never led a band on record.  It shouldn’t be taken lightly that such singular characters as Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Jimmy Smith openly declared their admiration for Christian.

Furthermore, until the last few years it has been rather difficult to gain access to the bulk of this musician’s recordings or to reliable information on him.  Fortunately, the French series Masters Of Jazz (Média 7) featured 8 CDs with all the material they could get hold of, together with extensive biographical information.

The two collections now published by Definitive carry less tracks than the French one, but the sound quality is better.  The large difference in price somehow makes up for the even larger difference in the amount of information included:   the Definitives are cheaper and their booklets much thinner.

Needless to say, these “Definitive” and “Complete” collections are not complete, and they will probably prove not to be definitive.   Further details for archivists only:  the enclosed information is flawless (apparently taken verbatim from expert Leo Valdés’ discography), and the CDs present, for the first time ever, a complete take of the Carnegie Hall recording of Oh, Lady Be Good.  As for the “master takes” in the Studio volume, there are some noticeable but minor errors, like managing to include 3 takes of Breakfast Feud while leaving out the originally issued take.

In strict musical terms, both periods of Christian’s career with Goodman are well represented:  first, the Goodman sextet with Lionel Hampton, from August 1939 till the summer of 1940, with a repertoire keen on standards, and secondly, the group with Cootie Williams and George Auld, leaning more towards riff-based tunes.  On top of this we also have Christian’s extra-curricular activities at Minton’s and Monroe’s.

The Studio set offers on the one hand a perfect picture of the disparate jobs that a top musician could have in those years, and on the other, young Charles’ enthusiasm when it came to playing music:  there are recordings playing electric or acoustic guitars, with a big band or within small groups, backing a classic blues singer (Ida Cox) or a dull vocalist (Eddy Howard), with a big star (Fred Astaire, who even “plays” a tap-dancing “solo”) or with a boogie pianist playing celeste (Meade ‘Lux’ Lewis), and so on.

Besides the main character’s mastery, this collection comprises treasures such as Lionel Hampton’s session (CD 1, #1-4) with Benny Carter, Chu Berry, Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins on saxes plus a very young Dizzy Gillespie, the “Sextet” with Count Basie and Jo Jones of January 15, 1941 (CD 3, #8-11) or Edmond Hall’s “celeste quartet”.  However, the crown’s jewels are in disc 4:  a session by the “supergroup” that was never to be, an octet with Christian, Goodman, and members of the Count Basie Orchestra (CD 4, #3-7) and a warm-up jam by members of the Sextet waiting for the boss’ arrival, where Christian’s ascendancy over his colleagues can be appreciated (CD 4, #9-13).

The inferior sound quality in the Live volume, which comprises recordings taken mainly from radio broadcasts, should not put off those willing to listen to Christian in full flight, with solos such as Tea For Two (CD 1, #5), with teenager Oscar Pettiford, the December 1939 edition of the Kansas City 6 (CD 2, #6-8) and, especially, the jam sessions at Minton’s and Monroe’s (CD 4, #6-11) where the guitarist teaches a lesson in swing with the support of Kenny Clarke on drums.

All in all, these are two highly recommended compilations, especially for newcomers.  And for those willing to expand their collections, it is perhaps time to start saving towards the upcoming release of yet more unissued material in volumes 9 and 10 of the Masters of Jazz series, as well as a 4-CD set by Sony/Legacy which promises to deliver every studio recording featuring Christian.

Fernando Ortiz de Urbina

My gratitude to Fer for an excellent review—LV


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