The Newsletters were initiated in 1995 in an attempt to reduce the amount of
correspondence with other Charlie Christian fans.
Now, with the Internet, it has become much easier and faster to communicate with
These are the reproductions of the original Newsletters. *
* The reproductions of the original Newsletters have been removed from
this site to allow more space for other stuff.
THE CHARLIE CHRISTIAN NEWSLETTERS
An Introduction to the Premier Issue was followed by:
CHARLIE CHRISTIAN JAZZ FESTIVAL
Ever since the festival was inaugurated in 1985, it had been held during the latter part of April or the first week of May. This year the 11th annual Charlie Christian Jazz Festival will be held on July 29th, Charles 79th birthday anniversary, on the 300 block of N.E. Second Street in Oklahoma City. That block of Deep Deuce was the center of activity during the time that Charles was developing and working in OKC. Rubys Grill, where CC did much of his jamming, was located in a two-story building that still stands right in the middle of the block. Charles going-away party was held at Rubys Grill on August 13, 1939 before he left OKC the following day for his audition with Benny Goodman in Los Angeles. It was also the site of a welcome-home jam on January 11, 1940 during a two-week vacation that CC took from the sextet. The Charlie Christian Jazz Festival is organized by Black Liberated Arts Center (BLAC), Inc., OKC.
[ The entire first article can be found in the Book Reviews section at Charlie and The Deuce ]
It had been known for some time that Charles body had been interred in an unmarked grave at Gates Hill Cemetery in Bonham, Texas, but the exact location had remained a mystery.
Charlie Christian was born on July 29, 1916 at his parents home on 511 West Johnson Street in Bonham and lived there until his family moved to OKC in 1918. I visited Bonham in 1990 and attempted to find the gravesite but was unsuccessfulthe funeral home didnt have a record of its location and the funeral director who had been present at the interment couldnt recall the spot. Thanks to the efforts of Garydon Rhodes, filmmaker and student at the University of Oklahoma who interviewed the local residents, the site was located a couple of years ago.
Last year a headstone, with the engraving of a guitar and the epitaph YOUR MUSIC WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN, was placed at Charlie Christians gravesite. A Texas Historical Marker commemorating Charles was also erected in Bonham. The dedications, sponsored by BLAC, Inc. and hosted by the Fannin County Museum of History, were held on April 23, 1994. Notable among the fifty-or-so attendees were two charming ladies who also participate in each years Charlie Christian Jazz Festival, Billie Jean Christian Johnson, Charles daughter, and her mother, Margretta Lorraine Downey.
MASTERS OF JAZZ
[ These four CD reviews are now in the CD Review section at Masters of Jazz ]
D. Russell Connor, author of Benny Goodman: Listen To His Legacy, has been working on an update of his book which contains a considerable amount of information on the recorded performances and itinerary of the band. He will not elaborate on the details but has indicated that the new edition will include a few previously undiscovered Charlie Christian items. I hope theyre actually new and not just unpublished, especially if those recordings become available.
[ Connors book was published in 1996. A brief
description is in Clive Downs
COMPOSITION BY CHARLIE CHRISTIAN
This is the only handwritten composition by Charles known to exist. I have transcribed it for guitar (an octave higher than written) from a hard-to-read photocopy of the original. Many years ago, MARY LOU WILLIAMS had said that she had a composition written by Charlie Christian in her possession. The original single-page manuscript was found four years ago among her papers with Charlie Christen [sic] written in Mary Lous handwriting across the top in place of a title. The original is now at the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers.
An enchanting melody and, as can be expected from Charles, rhythmically complex. Unfortunately, there are only a couple of chords (one is an F#7 at m. 21) indicated on the entire document leaving in question the exact intended harmony. Since there are several interesting possibilities regarding the harmony, I would very much like to hear from everyone on their thoughts as to the best chords for this beautiful piece.
CHARLIE CHRISTIANS DATE OF BIRTH
We still see today articles and CDs with various dates and places quoted for Charlie Christians birth. I am publishing his birth certificate in hopes that it will impress the correct date on everyone that has the occasion to list his birth date. The date of his death hasnt been such a dilemma so I wont include his certificate of death here, especially since it has the wrong date of birth on it.
Charlie Christian was born on Saturday, JULY 29, 1916 in BONHAM, TEXAS, about 85 highway miles northeast of Dallas (65 as the crow flies) . He was only two years old when his family moved to Oklahoma City on November 13, 1918 via Paris, Texas. When he joined the Benny Goodman band, he had just turned 23 years of age.
Charlie Christian was 25 YEARS OLD when he died of chronic pulmonary tuberculosis at Sea View Hospital on Staten Island in New York City on March 2, 1942 after 7 months, 21 days at that hospital. He was transferred there on July 11, 1941 after spending about 3 weeks at Bellevue Hospital, NYC, where he was admitted after he became ill during a one-week gig which began on June 14 at the Cedar Point Ballroom in Sandusky, Ohio.
According to the aforementioned Russ Connor, in the spring of 1941 Ralph Berton, son of drummer Vic Berton, was MC at a WNYC radio broadcast America in Swingtime where he recorded four tunes by the Goodman Sextet which have never been issued: an untitled Blues, The Sheik of Araby, Gone With What Wind, and Stompin at the Savoy. At least three of these contain solos by Charlie Christian.
[ This February 1941 session has been found and is now documented on this Web site. ]
SOLO FLIGHT: THE BOOK
Periodically I am asked how Im progressing on the book Ive been working on. I have completed my book on Charlie Christian a couple of times now only to decide to add or change something in it. I had already transcribed all of Charles solos, riffs, obbligati and intros from approximately 200 different tunesnow I have decided to include a guitar tablature for all the solos and most of the others to show the left hand position and fingering. On the tablature, I am also indicating the chords that CC denotes during his solos. This would be a great help to anyone interested in analyzing or learning Charlie Christians solo style.
Even though I have been studying Charles solos for more than three decades, I occasionally gain new insight into his thinking while going through this exercise. I am using a computer musical notation program to do this so its coming along quite well except for indicating which finger of the left hand to useits somewhat slow and tedious to insert these using the computer. But overall Im very pleased with the performance of the Encore notation functions. I would estimate that Im about halfway through with the tablatures which have so far produced around 150 pages.
[ This Web site has superseded the publication of a book at least for the foreseeable future. ]
CHARLIE CHRISTIAN SELECTED TO TOP 25
JazzTimes magazine announced the selection of Charlie Christian as one of the 25 Who Mattered Most in the past twenty-five years; in the September 1995, 25th Anniversary Issue.
To commemorate its 25th anniversary, JazzTimes asked five noted critics to chose the 25 musicians who figured most prominently in shaping the course of jazz over the past quarter century: Who had the greatest impact on the music since 1970?
Bill Milkowski selected Charlie Christian to the elite group54 years after Charles last recording!
The highly-regarded jazz journalist, Bill Milkowski, explained his selection:
Charlie Christian was not the first guitar virtuoso in jazz, but for generations of guitar players he was the first one who mattered. Through his hard-swinging legato lines and innovative use of electric guitar, Christian brought the instrument to the forefront in a way that no other guitarist had done He took what was essentially a timekeeping instrument and totally reinvented it, crafting long, driving lines as powerful as any horn players when Charlie Christian plugged in and swung with the force and ingenuity of a Lester Young, he blew them [earlier plectorists] all away.
He was the father of modern jazz guitar, the proto-bebopper, the bridge between the Swing Era and things to come.
what Christian did with the instrument in less than two yearsfrom August of 1939 to June of 1941turned the jazz world on its ear. A gifted improviser with a rich tone, an impeccable sense of time and an innate, relaxed sense of swing, he was also a prophet
His free-swinging, highly chromatic solos led to a whole new way of looking at the six-string instrument his long lines were always bursting with energy, imagination and rhythmic verve, as if the instrument were merely a conduit for communicating his inner spirit.
The excerpt above is heavily edited so you need to get the magazine to read the whole article and also find out who else was selected beside the usual greats like Duke, Monk, Bird, Miles, Coltrane, Ornette, Mingus, and Sun Ra. Of course I cant agree with all of the remaining choices. I was surprised but glad to see the World Saxophone Quartet among the selections. But no Basie! no Lady Day! and no Pres!
July 29, 1995. On the 79th anniversary of Charlie Christians birth, Oklahoma City held its twelfth annual Charlie Christian Jazz Festival.
[ These four CD reviews are now in the CD Reviews section at Masters of Jazz ]
Tea for Two Intro
The complete intro to Tea for Two has never been released on neither LP or CD. Here is the transcription of the intro as it was originally recorded by Jerry Newhouse at the Harlem Breakfast Club in Minneapolis, Minnesota on September 24, 1939.
After their gig with the Goodman band at the Orpheum Theater in St. Paul, Charlie Christian and tenor saxophonist Jerry Jerome went to jam at the after-hours club where they were joined by two local musicians, pianist Frankie Hines and bassist Oscar Pettiford.
Charlie Christian plays the intro unaccompanied except for the bass on the last two bars. The first half of the intro has never been issued.
[ This handscibed transcription of the Intro has been
reformatted and can be found as part of the complete Tea for Two
Stompin at the Savoy
On the two following pages is the transcription of the never-issued June 1941 incomplete aircheck of Stompin at the Savoy that I mentioned near the end of the CD Reviews. I hope this one is issued soon so that everyone can the opportunity to hear how perfectly Charlie Christians beautiful chords are placed on the opening chorus. As on the Rose Room recorded in the same month, his solo has more of a jamming flavor than is usual with the sextet. CC really gets into his solo with good drive and intensity with the ensemble riffing behind him. I get a kick out of the open low E-string he lets ring out at the beginning of the E7 on the bridge just before the recording goes askew. He did the same thing on the third chorus of his first solo on the May 12, 1941 Mintons version of Stompin .
[ This handscibed transcription has been reformatted and can be found in the Transcriptions section at Stompin at the Savoy ]
ANNUAL REVIEW OF
[ This book review is now in the Book-Video Reviews section at ARJS 6 ]
In the next issue of SOLO FLIGHT: THE CHARLIE CHRISTIAN
NEWSLETTER, I hope to review the two CDs that I mentioned earlier:
Also a recap of the CDs where you can find the few Charlie Christian recordings that were not included in the Masters of Jazz series.
Most importantly, Ill have news on the recent issue on a Swedish CD of a never-before-available rendition of Flying Home which was recorded on September 9, 1939 from the Camel Caravan radio broadcasts. As usual, it features a 32-bar chorus by Charlie Christian with the Goodman sextet.
JAMMING AT RUBYS GRILL ON SECOND
STREET (DEEP DEUCE)
NEW CHARLIE CHRISTIAN
Nine previously unknown recordings were revealed in D. Russell Connors final book on Benny Goodman.
Russ Connors latest book, Wrappin It Up (The Scarecrow Press, 1996, 179 pp), identified nine recordings of Charlie Christian that had never appeared in any previously published discographies. All are radio broadcasts from the collection of audio engineer Bill Savory dating from November 1939 through April 1940. I have not heard any of them yet; but, judging from other versions of these tunes, at least seven of them should have solos by Charlie Christian.
All nine airchecks are by the Benny Goodman Sextet with Christian, Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Artie Bernstein, Nick FatoolFletcher Henderson is on the first four, Johnny Guarnieri is on the others:
November 22, 1939 Waldorf-Astoria Hotel NYC (CBS Radio)
December 4, 1939 Waldorf-Astoria NYC
December 6, 1939 Waldorf-Astoria NYC
Seven Come Eleven
December 9, 1939 Camel Caravan NYC (NBC Radio)
December 21, 1939 Waldorf-Astoria NYC
January 15, 1940 Broadcast to Scandinavia NYC (NBC Radio)
April 5, 1940 Cocoanut Grove Los Angeles
April 19, 1940 Cocoanut Grove Los Angeles
I Surrender, Dear
Connors book contains no additional info on CC other than the revelation of these airchecks. Bill Savory is presently attempting to negotiate with Sony or PolyGram to issue his Goodman airchecks on five CDs. Hopefully, these nine will be among them.
By Peter Broadbent
[ This book review is now in the Book-Video Reviews section at Charlie Christian ]
THE SPLICED RECORDINGS
[ These charts are now in The Spliced Recordings section ]
SOLO FLIGHT: THE GENIUS OF CHARLIE CHRISTIAN
written & directed by Gary Don Rhodes
[ The video is reviewed in the Book-Video Reviews section at Solo Flight ]
SUISA JZCD 379
JAZZ UNLIMITED JUCD 2013
BENNY GOODMANS GOLDEN ERA:
PHONTASTIC NCD 8845/8846
THE HARLEM JAZZ SCENE
[ All of these CDs are reviewed in the CD Reviews section ]
THE MISSING MJCD RECORDINGS
[ This article can be found as part of the Masters of Jazz reviews in the CD Reviews section at The Missing MJCD Recordings ]
MORE BOOK REVIEWS
ANNUAL REVIEW OF
THE GUITAR IN JAZZ
Edited by James Sallis
[ Both book reviews are now in the Book-Video Reviews section ]
In keeping with our traditional policy of publishing transcriptions of never-released Charlie Christian solos, heres one that was broadcast from the Cocoanut Grove on 27 April 1940 during the bands four-month tour of the West Coast. This version of Poor Butterfly is the only other known recording of the tune besides the studio rendition recorded 3½ weeks before by the same sextet personnel: Christian, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Johnny Guarnieri, Artie Bernstein, and Nick Fatool. As on the studio version, this one is also 2½ choruses long, but with Hampton getting a full chorus instead of sharing half with Guarnieri as on the previous version.
Charlie again gets only eight bars for his solo, which he begins by rhythmically paraphrasing a bar and a half of the melody before going into his usual improvisation. The fourth bar starts out sounding like an Ab phrase but ends up being a Bb7. Then CC plays a startling C#7 over the C7+5 harmony before repeating the phrase in C7. On the last bar of the solo, he again surprises the listener with a sudden move up in pitchespecially unexpected if one is familiar with his solo on the other version of the tuneanticipating the melody that follows.
[ The transcription and tab are in the Transcriptions section at Poor Butterfly ]
Tea for Two
While committing Tea for Two to tablature format, I noticed that a couple of accidentals had been left out of the intro that I had published in the last newsletter: a natural is missing from the first measure and another from the third. It seems that the majority of my transcription errors are omitted natural signs; next in persistent annoyance are absent sixteenth rests. Computerizing the transcriptions has helped tremendously.
I had planned to just publish a written correction to the omissions; however, a request from a reader for the intro in tab format (possibly because of the truant signs) prompted me to print the correction in tablature and standard notation. Clive Downs comments on the solo (see his supplemental article following this section) caused the publication of the complete transcription. Since this solo transcription is from an issued recording, I expect to receive more than the usual critique on this one.
The chord symbols placed above the standard notation are the simplified chords of the tune. The chords above the tab staff represent the basic harmony of Charlie Christians solo. These are placed as close as possible to the beginning of the corresponding phrase. This is sometimes difficult because usually, on his solos, Christian plays several overlapping notes that belong to both chords as he plays through the changes, especially on connecting 7th chords which are common on the bridge of many tunes. Due to the harmonic structure of Tea for Two, this doesnt occur nearly as often on this particular piece.
[ The transcription and tab are in the Transcriptions section at Tea for Two ]
By CLIVE G. DOWNS
In 1993, the Annual Review of Jazz Studies published an article providing a comprehensive list of published notations of solos by Charlie Christian: An Annotated Bibliography of Notated Charlie Christian Solos, pp. 153-186. Below are details of solo transcriptions published since the article appeared, and also some other additional items of earlier date which have come to light since then. As in the original article, the relevant recording date and a recent CD issue of the track in question are included.
[ This addendum to Clives bibliography has been
incorporated into the complete biblio in the Bibliographies section