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The Benny Goodman Sextet Featuring Charlie Christian: 1939-1941
Genres: Jazz, Pop
By 1939 not only had Benny Goodman fronted one of jazz's most popular big bands, but he'd also created highly influential "chamber jazz" with his legendary trio and quartet. Once he heard the young guitar pioneer Charlie C... more »
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By 1939 not only had Benny Goodman fronted one of jazz's most popular big bands, but he'd also created highly influential "chamber jazz" with his legendary trio and quartet. Once he heard the young guitar pioneer Charlie Christian, Goodman immediately expanded his small group to a sextet to accommodate him (along with bassist Artie Bernstein). Goodman's recordings with Christian remain some of the genre's most significant work, largely because of the impact of Christian's revolutionary guitar. In fact, many of these original tunes are based on Christian's own "pet licks," showing us just how logical and well constructed his improvisations are. Christian's harmonically advanced single-note solos are a precursor to bebop, but even more importantly, he establishes the guitar as an equal partner to the horn soloists. No longer relegated to rhythm work, Christian's lines are every bit as awe-inspiring as those of the leading blowers of the day. Christian is simply inventing the vocabulary of modern jazz guitar. The sextet is fleshed out by the likes of Lionel Hampton, Fletcher Henderson, Count Basie, and Cootie Williams, and Goodman, never one to be outdone by his sidemen, plays with the vibrancy and the sort of "relaxed precision" that only he was capable of. --Marc Greilsamer
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Webley Webster | Hillsborough, NC USA | 03/16/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This disc and "Genius of the Electric Guitar" together provide a solid overview of Christian's phenomenal recording career with Benny Goodman. Contrary to what another review here might lead you to believe, Christian takes plenty of passes and is in top form. Plus, the disc features plenty of phenomenal playing by Fletcher Henderson, Lionel Hampton, Cootie Wilson, Georgie Auld, and of course Benny Goodman. Very, very enjoyable."
Swing like Mad
Nikica Gilic | Zagreb, Croatia | 12/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a great CD; for fans of Christian it provides a good insight into a significant part of his short career (he is not a mere sideman on this album), although I would personally always choose Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessell of Joe Pass over Christian...
Influential as he was, later electric guitar players just seem more imaginative and versatile artists than good old Charlie... As for older cats, Django was not surpassed by Christian; even when he embraced the electric guitar he was still his brilliant self; number one guitar player of the swing style...
Actually, this CD is so brilliant because of Goodman, Hampton, George Auld and other sophisticated swing players (Count Basie and Jo Jones are guests on two numbers!), PARTICULARLY because of Goodman, ellegant but hot, and, of course, because of good old Cootie Williams on last few selections... This was the trumpeter's golden era; he was still fresh from Duke Ellington orchestra... Just listen to his intros; they sound like nuclear explosion contained in a jar; just listen to his growling cressendos; they sound like the jar has exploded and nothin' can keep the mushroom from appearing over your cd player..."
Enjoyable music but not essential Christian (or Goodman)
Samuel Chell | Kenosha,, WI United States | 11/08/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I've always regarded the Goodman small groups as another high water mark in the history of small ensemble playing in jazz. The early lineage begins with the Armstrong Hot 5 and 7 groups, includes Count Basie's small group sessions with Lester Young, and is completed by the brilliant playing of Goodman in trio and somewhat larger ensembles. Unfortunately, this is "merely" an enjoyable collection of carefully timed studio sessions (18 tunes) with the other players serving as little more than a showcase for the "relaxed precision" (neither brilliant nor especially impressive) of Goodman's clarinet.
The title is certainly a misnomer. Far from being a "featured" performer, Christian is frequently limited to as few as eight bars of improvising during a 32-bar pop song. Apparently Sony-Columbia saw the Christian connection as the surest way to market these undeniably important recordings to the general public. This was "pop music" to listeners of the day, but for the present-day listener it's competent playing of familiar tunes--smooth, palatable, pleasant but lacking in heat, swing, or memorable improvising. The label's "Genius of the Electric Guitar" also suffers from a disproportionate emphasis on Goodman but at least affords Christian some lengthier solo opportunities.
As we approach the year of Goodman's centenary, he deserves recognition if not a renewal of interest in his music and its significance. But this is not the album for it. In fact, the scandalously neglected Les Paul small group sessions of the '40's (before the multitracking and electronic gadgetry) feature not only more scintillating guitar but more inspired, intricate, and technically challenging ensemble playing."