Only a month into his recorded career, Charlie Christian was captured on acetate disc
by Jerry Newhouse while jamming at the Harlem Breakfast Club in
Minneapolis. Tea for Two was one of three tunes recorded
that early morning at the after-hours private club when Newhouse and his friend, Dick
Pendleton, picked up Charles and Jerry Jerome after their gig with Benny Goodman at the
Orpheum Theater across the river in St. Paul. They were joined by local musicians,
pianist Frankie Hines and 17-year-old bassist Oscar Pettiford (on his first recording).
This was the earliest of Charles recorded jam sessionscompletely unfettered
and in absolutely fine fettle. Clearly his style and technique are already fully
formed and developed. Tea for Two is taken at a fast clip (212
m.m.thats almost one measure per second) which doesnt faze him in the
least, in the key of Ab.
Charles uses the last eight bars of the tune on which to base his brilliant chord intro
after which Jerome takes a two-chorus tenor sax solothen its
C h a r l i e C h r i s t i a n time:
1st Solo: 1st Chorus
Charles was known to use open strings on some of his solos, but here he seems to use them
more often than on otherstheyre found throughout his two solos but especially
on the first chorus at mm 9, 11, 15, 17, 25. Theres a decidedly strong
three-against-four rhythm on mm 5-6 containing descending notes with higher
tones inserted at select intervalsthis motif is again found in later solos in
various guisesa favorite of his on the dom7
(and a delight for any guitarist to play). He was also fond of inserting the iv of the upcoming major chord to segue to that chord,
as on mm 14-15 (and bar 6 on the next chorus). Anticipating the chord change by two
beats, on mm 12-19 Charles tears off on one of his lengthy 8th-note runs which he normally
reserves for the bridge (note the open-E at the
end of bar 15 used to maintain the continuity while he casually shifts hand position on
This early recording also shows that he is already thinking in harmonic terms well
beyond those of the swing era with 9ths, 11ths, 13ths common on the dom7
chords and b9ths, M7ths
sprinkled here and therea favorite of mine (and, apparently, of Charlies as
well) is the #5 on the first beat of bar
14. Then theres the use of the whole tone scale on bar 22 (more of which later
on the second chorus) leading into the dim7 over
the Ebm/F7 at mm 23-24.
1st Solo: 2nd Chorus
mm 17-20: Classical composers had just recently begun using the whole note
scalein 1939 Charles was already using this whole tone scale, over the two Eb7 measures. Someone in the background can be
heard reacting to it while CC resolves conventionally over the Ab
on the next two measures. (Compare this sequence to the similar four-bar phrasing
that he playedusing more conventional harmonya year-and-a-half later on the 13
March 1941 Rose Room on the 2nd solo, 2nd chorus, mm 1-4.)
The motif at mm 21-22 is a variation on the one at mm 12-13 on the first chorus.
Again at mm 23-24, we hear a dim7 over the Ebm/F7 sequence, this time introduced by a most
effective slide from the preceding Eb7. CC
concludes his first solo with long, swooping slides.
After a one-chorus piano solo and a two-chorus sax solo, Charles resumes the dramatics
with an 5-beat-early entrance of over six bars of alternating-string Fs
(falling as 9ths on the Eb7, 6ths on the Ab). He takes a whole rest, starts the next eight
bar section with a very pleasing and creative G7 sequence, plays a C-major fret-stepping
run (infrequently used, on major chords rarely on dominant-7) and a correlated G7
run (occasionally used on dominant-7 chords), and resolves the first half of his
Then comes the attention-grabbing, rhythmically-complex (three-against-four, crossing
bar lines), harmonically-modern climax of the tune: descending augmented triad
arpeggios over the Eb7 turned around to major
triad arpeggios descending then ascending over the Ab.
Those tension-producing four bars are followed by an Eb7
run with one descending measure and one ascending measure and again, as in his first two
choruses, a dim7 fitting perfectly over the Ebm/F7 sequence at mm 23-24. Although this third
set of eight bars is not the bridge on this tune, Charlie Christian virtually treats it as
For the final eight bars, Charles plays adorned Bbm
arpeggios for three bars then slides to a Dbm to
set up the appropriate closing.
Transcendent solos! And these were only some of his very first.
Jerry Newhouse recorded this session on location utilizing a
Presto acetate disc recorder (12-inch discs at 78rpm). At the time, he was fresh out
of college and starting out in the lumber industry. The preeminent Mr. Newhouse can
also be credited with having recorded countless broadcasts by the bands of Count Basie,
Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, et al. A bountiful number of airchecks released on LP
and CD from that era have come from his treasured archives.