DB Hall of Fame

SOLO  FLIGHT

THE  CHARLIE  CHRISTIAN  LEGACY

DB Hall of Fame


 

 

TOPSY
(SWING TO BOP)
(CHARLIE’S CHOICE)
(IN THE HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN KING)
 
Jam Session
 
MAY  12,  1941     Monday “MINTON’S PLAYHOUSE”
Hotel Cecil,  210 West 118th Street
Harlem,  NYC
 

 
  32  BARS   (ABCA) Key of Bbm Quarter Note = 212 Time: 9:58
 
 
  1  Partial CHORUS  +  15  CHORUSES  +  1 Partial CHORUS:
 
[ Recording starts at the sixth bar of the “first” chorus ]
 
  27  bars  –  CC
 
    5  chor  –  CC
 
      4  chor  –  trumpet
 
      2  chor  –  piano
 
    3  chor  –  CC
 
  32   bars  –  trumpet < only the first  17  bars  of this tpt solo have been issued –
  23   bars  –  trumpet – an additional  38  bars  were recorded but never released >
 
[cut off] 
 

 
Personnel:
 
  CHARLIE CHRISTIAN Guitar
  JOE GUY trumpet
  KENNY KERSEY piano
  NICK FENTON bass
  KENNY CLARKE drums
 
 

 
Issued Recordings:
 
  [ 10 ] Esoteric ESJ-1
    Vogue LD 035
    Vogue LDE 002
 
  [ LP ] Bellaphon BJS 4042
    Columbia / Everest SL-5001-EV
    Counterpoint CPT-548
    Counterpoint CPTS-5548
    Esoteric ES-548
    Everest 1233
    Everest 5233
    Everest FS-219
    Everest FS-259
    Festival ALB 377
    Jazz Anthology JA 5122
    Jazz Historical Rec HR-101-EV
    Murray Hill S-53976
    Nippon Columbia YS-7071-EV
    Presto PRE 640
    Saga 6919
    Saga SOC 1036
    Society SOC 996
    Time-Life STL-J12
    Vedette VRM 36025
    Vedette VRMS 325
    Vogue VG 405 / 500114
 
  [ CD ] Black Bird Black Bird
    Blue Moon Discs 008
    Charly CPCD 8194-2
    CMA Jazz CM 15001
    Definitive DRCD11288
    Fantasy / Esoteric OJCCD-1932-2
    Frémeaux FA 218
    Grammercy 0156 2
    Jazz Anthology 55001 2
    Jazz Classics JZCL-5005
    Laserlight 17 032
    Le Chant du Monde 274 1459.60
    Le Jazz / Charly CD 11
    Legacy International 373
    MasterSong 50354 2
    Music Memoria 87998 2
    Musidisc MUS-55001 2
    Natasha Imports NI-4020
    Nippon Columbia 30CY-1436
    Prime Leisure PLATCD 509
    Proper P1134
    Proper PROPERBOX 9
    Topaz Jazz TPZ 1028
    United Audio UAE 3066 2
    Venus 35C38-7223
    Venus TKCZ-36013
    Venus TKCZ-79502
    Vogue VG 651 / 600135
 
  Incomplete  (Vox 78-rpm rendition):   *
 
  [ 78 ] Vox VSP 302
 
  [ CD ] BD Jazz JZBD022
  Definitive DRCD11122
  Definitive DRCD11177
  Dreyfus Jazz FDM 36715-2
  JSP JSP909
  Masters of Jazz MJCD 75
  Masters of Jazz R2CD 8004
  Proper PROPERBOX 98
  Proper / musisoft EMCD 21
 
  *   These releases fade out  approximately 8 bars after CC’s last solo,  and contain added crowd noise.
 
  Incomplete  (CC’s 2nd solo omitted):   **
 
  [ LP ] Giants of Jazz LPJT 13
 
  [ CD ] Best of Jazz 4032
    Chestnut CN1003
    Jazz Greats MC 027
    Music & Arts 4017
    Rhythm and Blues RANDB030
 
  **   These releases contain only the first six choruses – fade out after CC’s first solo.
 

 
  Jam Session Recorded by  JERRY NEWMAN
 

Composed by: Edvard Grieg - Eddie Durham - Edgar Battle
 
©   VALDÉS   1/15/99

 


 

First Solo:

[ chorus 1 ]    [ chorus 2 ]    [ chorus 3 ]    [ chorus 4 ]    [ chorus 5 ]    [ chorus 6 ]


Second Solo:

[ chorus 1 ]    [ chorus 2 ]    [ chorus 3 ]

 



C&A:

Most jazz cognoscenti, especially guitarists, consider Charlie Christian’s two solos on Topsy to be his crowning glory.  I would have to say they’re among the best jazz guitar solos ever, equaled only by a few of CC’s own;  and among the very best by any instrumentalist.  Interestingly, it’s in a minor key.  Recorded at a jam session on an acetate recorder by Jerry Newman, the entire 10-minute recording of this tune consists of fifteen choruses plus a partial chorus (guitar) at the beginning of the recording and a partial chorus (trumpet) at the end.

First CC Solo

First Solo – 1st Chorus
The incomplete recording begins halfway into the sixth measure with Charlie Christian already in full flight.  The bridge is not typical in that CC does not let loose with his usual eighth-note runs here—he starts out like it’s going to be a release but then pulls back with interesting (especially the F7 measure) “non-bridge” phrasing.  He closes out the chorus with eight bars of repeated three-note, ascending riffs spaced out by varying rests.

First Solo – 2nd Chorus
He now begins increasingly intensifying his solo on the first sixteen bars—longer runs and more rhythmically intense starts (mm 5 and 15).  And here’s the way Charles normally plays a release.  He starts the bridge with a unique Bb7 phrase (beginning with an open-string D) then slides beautifully up to the Eb7.   The Ab7 that crosses mm 21-22 is a typical CC phrase, as is the F7 that crosses mm 23-24 except that here the F7 is not syncopated (it appears two choruses later in its usual rhythm).  On the last eight bars, he again plays varying clusters of repeated, ascending riffs but this time consisting of four notes preceded by a lead-in at bar 25.

First Solo – 3rd Chorus
After letting the solo simmer for a few bars, Charlie Christian again starts turning up the burners—most notably at mm 7-9.  Then he really rips off an extraordinary bridge with tremendous drive.  Except for the two open-string Ds at bars 21 and 22, the phrases are not that unusual but he plays them with enormous, resourceful exuberance.

Just when the listener expects him to let off a bit for the following “A” section, he suddenly throws in another swoop (as on bar 18 of the previous chorus) to the higher frets to play a run that he played on mm 5-7 on the previous chorus.  But here he stretches out that sequence by inserting rests between each note—which are all placed on the upbeat.  He finally relaxes a bit on the last three bars of the chorus.  Charles very softly plays four notes across the last two bars of this chorus—and two Bbs less noticeably at bar 16—just pawing at the strings as he gets ready to charge into his next concatenation, somewhat like he does more distinctly on the following chorus, also at bar 16.

First Solo – 4th Chorus
Charles riffs for the first eight bars, throws in some common licks for the next eight (compare mm 13-15 with the same measures on the first chorus), then paws at three Bbs (bar 16) to set himself up for the bridge.  The first bar of the bridge has one of CC’s standard phrases—the first four notes are always played straight (not syncopated)—as does bar 20 which has a phrase that again makes an appearance in modified form 3� bars later in the F7.   This time Charlie Christian doesn’t loosen up for the last eight bars of this chorus, especially not so with those ingenious triplets where he picks every 1� beats alternating between upbeat and downbeat for the last four measures—exceedingly hip.

First Solo – 5th Chorus
On the first bar of the chorus, it seems as though Charles is going to continue with the trills but instead he brilliantly pulls out of them with some ideal riffs.  This fifth chorus is without a doubt the most-remembered chorus on this revered solo for a couple of reasons.  The twelve Cs (6ths) repeated sequentially across most of the Ebm (mm 9-12) for one.  But especially for the fantastic four-note chromatic clusters that begin two beats before the bridge, first ascending for the Bb7, then descending on the Eb7.  During the sequence Charlie Christian hits open strings on every other upbeat eight times!  The way he cleverly closes out the run on mm 20-21 is absolutely perfect.

The rest of the bridge is standard CC —indeed, the F7 phrase (bar 24) is a repeat from the previous chorus—but notice the Db phrase (bar 23) comes in almost a whole measure early.  The last eight bars start out with spaced upbeat notes similar to mm 26-28 of the third chorus followed by some really swinging lines.  The last measure introduces the next chorus.

First Solo – 6th Chorus
This chorus starts with Charles playing phrases with five flatted-fifths.  At measures 9-12, he plays some repeated Ab7 (relative dom7 of the Ebm) figures which are not that uncommon but never found to this length.  Another phrase that can be found in a few of his solos is at mm 14-15, preceded by six repeated tonics—this time it sounds like CC is not using alternating strings—then, without missing a beat, he flies into the last bridge in his solo.  His licks on the bridge are perfectly strung together.  Especially beautiful is the Eb7 part (mm18-20).  Then there’s one final four-bar flourish right after the bridge followed by a brilliantly simple little turn at mm 30-31.   Finally the torrential flow of ideas comes to an end and Charles fades out with four repeated figures.  He would return six choruses later for another solo with three more choruses.

Between Charles’ two solos:  Joe Guy comes in for four trumpet choruses followed by two excellent choruses from pianist Kenny Kersey (not Thelonious Monk who is listed on album covers and liner notes—and even on Newman’s original acetate).

Second CC Solo

Second Solo – 1st Chorus
For the his second solo, Charles starts by playing his Basie-influenced interpretation of the theme for the first half of the chorus.  This is very unusual for him and it might lead the listener to believe that he is wrapping it up even though he is swinging the theme like no one else.  But then he really starts cranking it up at the bridge.  His work on mm 25-27 is embellished on mm 13-15 of the following chorus.

Second Solo – 2nd Chorus
The first four bars contain a variant of the shifty maneuvers he played at the same point on the last chorus of his first solo.  I really can’t define the next twelve bars, but I will say that all sixteen bars before the bridge are a blast—I can just about imagine how CC must have enjoyed coming up with such effortless ingenuity.  Charles starts out the bridge as he did in the fourth chorus of his first solo, but this time he repeats the first four notes three times—the first time he starts on the down-beat, the second time he delays the start slightly (between the down-beat and the up-beat), the third time it’s on the up-beat—amazing rhythmic mastery.  After the bridge, there’s some triplets (mm 25-27) something like those on the last four bars of the fourth chorus on his first solo, followed by repeated four-note clusters.

Second Solo – 3rd Chorus
The first half of the chorus consists of easy swinging riffs.  The bridge includes six measures of some fascinating four-note figures varied to fit the chord changes.  A few very soft notes at mm 27-28 set up more repeated four-note clusters to take it out.

Charlie Christian’s second solo doesn’t quite reach the level of his first but it is still exceptional by any other standard.  Joe Guy’s second trumpet solo follows, during which the recording cuts off after a chorus and 23 bars.  Only the first 17 bars of the trumpet solo have ever been released, no doubt due to the recording getting extremely noisy after that.  I would like to add that Klook’s drum support on CC’s solos is exceptional.

 



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