This take of Solo Flight was the one that was released on
78-rpm in December 1943 rising all the way to # 1 on Billboards Harlem Hit
Parade in March 1944, two years after Charlie Christians death. A second
take of Charles guitar concerto was recorded at this studio session but not released
until April 1955, on LP.
This composition is the best one to listen to if you want to hear Charles run
changesmostly one chord change per measure, sometimes two per measure. None of
the other tunes he recorded change chords that often. Its also an excellent
vehicle for learning CCs techniquefor the beginner or for the more experienced
guitarist wanting to learn how he played his solos. A perfect example of Charlie
Christian in swing modethe advanced harmony is there but the blues are suppressed
and the more complex bop rhythms are not present. And its all in the easy key
of C except for one section that modulates to F and back to C.
The phrase at mm 1 sounds awkward to me but from there on its smooth sailing.
The last note in bar 7 is the #5 of the G7
giving the three-bar phrase added interest. The half-note at bar 11 is a
surpriseone expects a C (5th) but instead Charles plays a D (6th) over the F chord.
The octaves on the G7 at bar 13 appear twice in each of the two studio takes and
once in each of the two Solo Flight live recordingshe used it on other
occasions but it is especially convenient on this tune because the open G-string can be
On the pickup before measure 1, CC plays what may be his favorite double-stop:
of the CMaj. The Dm7/G7
at mm 3-4 contains a common sequence but Charles spaces out the first notes with quarter
rests rather than connected quarter notes, then he inserts an Fm
run between the G7 and the following C chord. I really like the melodic ending to
the section from mm10 thru 14he sets it up with clever changes at bar 10 and, at bar
11, theres a substantial anticipation of the Dm.
Different variations on the usual phrases, beautifully and logically put together.
However, I dont remember CC ever using the sequence at mm 13-14 before.
Section IV (in F)
The first four measures are written outhe uses this on all four of the Solo
Flight recordings. Also, the next four bars appear virtually unchanged on three
of the four recordings. His favorite double-stops again at bar 6, this time on the FMaj: Ab/D.
The same finger pattern is used for the three chord changes on mm 8-10 but each with
a different contour. Measures 14-15: repeated Fs (tonic) on alternating
Excellent 6-measure, 6-chord run from mm 3 to 8 before he lays out for the
bridge (mm 9-12). The arrangement calls for Charles to play on the
bridge of the first four sections and rest on his last two. The octaves
again in bar 13 (they dont always show up at bar 13 on the other versions).
Section VI (in F)
Goodman takes his clarinet solo herethe less said, the better. But
wouldnt it have been something if Lester Young had taken the clarinet solo on this
Charles again plays a 6-measure, 6-chord run at mm 3-8 which, except for the first bar, is
virtually identical to the one he played on section V but with a different lilt (at bar 3
is a figure that was expanded on mm 7-8 in section V of the second take). He closes
out his solo with the same notes played simultaneously on adjoining strings then goes to
alternating the same note on the strings.
If memory serves, I read an early review or two where critics said that they
didnt feel that Solo Flight was all that great because the band and Charlie
Christian were sometimes at odds (or something to that effect). But what did the
critics know back thenthese are fantastically wonderful recordings. Charles
worked beautifully within Jimmy Mundys band arrangement. He contributed
significantly (probably totally to the basic framework) to the composition and may also
have had a hand in the arranging.
Wes Montgomery (during an interview): I never saw him in my life, but he
said so much on records. I dont care what instrument a cat played, if he
didnt understand and feel the things that Charlie Christian was doing, he was a
pretty poor musician. Solo Flightboy that was too much! I still
hear it. He was it for me. I didnt hear anybody else
after that for about a year.
And a quote from Chuck Berry: Solo Flight! Its so
great, manits a son of a bitch! I got the first 16 bars down, took me 30