Royal Garden Blues features Cootie Williams and his trumpet
on his second day of his brand new contract with the band. He is also
featured later in the session on the intro to Benny’s Bugle (on which CC
gets much more solo space than on this one) which was used again by the
sextet unlike Royal Garden Blues which was only recorded on this one
Charlie Christian gets only 8 bars on two choruses but he swings like all
get-out and performs very well in the short space-time allocated – there’s
just not much to comment on since there’s no way to develop a meaningful
solo within this brief duration. Charles admirably makes the most of it and
also makes his presence known on the riffs. The riffs, by the way, are
somewhat liberally interpreted by all.
CO 29028-2 (take 1)
Charles immediately finds a fitting opening for his solo following the 4-bar
refrain played consecutively by the trumpet, clarinet, and piano. Both solos
are revisits to familiar panoplies with wonderful new trimmings and accessories.
☊ LISTEN Guitar Solo – first take
CO 29028-3 (take 2)
The guitar solo opening is the same as on the first take but then gradually
deviates via a different, less adventuresome path. On the second solo chorus
only the details are different from the first take.
A chorus of riffs is added after the trumpet solo on this second take.
☊ LISTEN Guitar Solo – second take
CO 29028-1 (take 3 – master)
Charles’ opening statement leaves no doubt that this is a blues. Since
this solo is so similar to the others, the interest again is on the details.
And, oh yeah, we have some headline news here on this master take:
Charles misses his triplet on the first beat of bar nine of the second
The chorus after the trumpet solo on this particular take is changed to a sort of piano solo which, guitar solos aside, makes this the best take –
Charles riffing with Basie, bass, drums.
☊ LISTEN Guitar Solo – master take
This may not be one of the more
favored CC tunes but the swingin’ guitar
solos and riffing are a joy and worth a close listen. The solos on Royal
Garden Blues are not identical but do generally conform to the same basic
pattern. Charles’ pro tem “composed” solos fit in perfectly with what is a
well-done, most-likely-“head” arrangement. Comparing the details in the
three versions gives a good insight on the ontogenesis of his solos – at
least, on this tune.
The leader’s screeching clarinet solos, though, may well be his worse work
with the sextet during Charles’ tenure. The clarinetist is probably
attempting to generate some excitement into his solos but, to this listener, he falls far short of his
goal and just sounds rather frenzied with no direction or purpose.
This is not the Goodman of the elegant ballad melodies. Joe Guy
sounded more coherent and tasteful at the Minton sessions. But then, this discord
may only be this reviewer’s idiosyncratic aversion to shrill sounds such as
nails scraping across a chalkboard. Even so, it’s surprising that he
and Columbia would approve it for actual release.
In any case, it’s interesting to hear how Charlie Christian enhances his
masterful riffing by continually varying the syncopation, note/rest
duration, and emphasis in his phrasing. This sort of variety is applied to
all his riffing throughout his recorded legacy.