The Lost Charlie Christian Website FOUND

When I first started focusing on Swing guitar, one of the most useful sites I found was Greg Hansen's Charlie Christian Site: Legend of the Jazz Guitar. Aside from the discographies, trivia, photos and other biographical information, it also had a small primer on Charlie's playing style as well as many transcriptions. The transcription pages were particularly helpful because they had the solos in notation and tab, and a link to a real audio file of the solo. Given that it was in real audio format, that should give you an idea of when the site was created.

Well, a couple of years ago the site vanished. It just wasn't there anymore. This was particularly frustrating because some of the tunes were not transcibed anywhere else, and where they were transcribed, the approach to fingering was very different. I'd forget a small piece of a solo that I'd learned a while back, and not be able to just double check it. It was a bummer. I then read on the Charlie Christian Yahoo Group that Greg Hansen had taken the site down, and wasn't planning to put it back up anytime soon. Damn.

Well, I stumbled across this a couple days ago:

It's Greg Hansen's Website in the form of a PDF E-book. Awesome: One click, and now I've got it saved forever. Done.

Leapin' Lester: the Bad Plus transcribes Lester Young

When working on my electric single-note playing, I've been really focusing on Charlie Christian for over a year now. I've been learning some of his solos, but even more so I've been trying to internalize his phrasing - to get in his headspace. To do that, it's useful to see where a person comes from.

Charlie Christian was a huge Lester Young fan. It clearly shaped both his phrasing and compositional approach to soloing. What better way to get inside Charlie's head than to learn some of Lester's solos.

Lester's most lauded and analyzed solo is his two choruses on "Lady Be Good" from 1936, recorded with a Basie small group credited as Jones-Smith Inc. The solo became almost a jazz etude - something that musicians learned as a part of their education.

A couple years ago, I took a lesson with Howard Alden at jazz festival we were both playing at, and that solo came up. Howard has transcribed and forgotten more tunes and solos than anybody, but he said he'll always know Lester's choruses on "Lady Be Good."

On gig with my big band a couple years ago, we had to play an extended version of the song "Lady Be Good" for a dance contest. Dan Barrett was playing with us, along with our regular lead trombone, Dan Weinstein. I signaled to have either one of them take a chorus, and they both stood up and played both choruses of Lester's 1936 solo in unison.

I'm going to be honest here and say that I have never been particularly good at transcribing, mostly because I don't have the patience. I found Lester's 1936 solo in Gunther Schuller's "The Swing Era" along with a full analysis of the solo.

I was planing to post the transcription when I stumbled upon a blog called Do the Math. Do the math is the product of Ethan Iverson, pianist of the Bad Plus - darlings of the modern jazz scene for their blend of jazz tradition and indie rock ethos. Clearly, the thoroughly modern music of the Bad Plus is not the reason I bring this up on the swing guitar blog.

Last year, for the Lester Young Centenial, Ethan wrote a suite of posts about Lester. Two of the post are particularly amazing. The first I noticed, is a tribute to the 1936 "Lady" solo. But even more than transcribing the solo, Ethan also transcribes 16 other "Lady" solos for comparison - two from Coleman Hawkins, one from Chu Berry, two choruses from Herschel Evans, a couple from Charlie Parker, and the rest from Lester himself.

The second post I want to highlight, is a Lester listening session / interview with Lee Konitz. Ethan and Lee listen to 18 Lester Young solos - ALL WITH TRANSCRIPTIONS and commentary! Amazing. Personally, I can't wait to learn Lester's chorus on "Jumpin' at the Woodside" from 1938.

Once I work out some of the fingerings, I'll post some transcriptions with tab.

Charlie Christian - All Star Jump

I've generally not been one to do my own transcriptions. For one, I find transcribing very, very difficult. And two, I'd generally rather spend what little patience I have for transcribing on taking down arrangements for one of my bands. But the other night, I found myself really driven to figure out Charlie Christian's solo on "All Star Jump," recorded January 16, 1941.

"All Star Jump" is one of my favorite recordings, both from a musician and a dancer's perspective.  The Metronome All Star Band of 1941 featured no less than Charlie Christian, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Cootie Williams, Harry James, Ziggy Elman, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins and Buddy Rich. It's one of my favorite versions of "One O'Clock Jump", albeit with a slightly different shout riff. It's filled with fantastic solos, and unlike many "all star" sessions where the players seem to have no chemistry, the band really jumps. "All Star Jump" is something I almost always play when I DJ, and I've transcribed the arrangement for the Jonathan Stout Orchestra. (The other tune recorded on that session was "Bugle Call Rag", using the Fletcher Henderson arrangement made famous by Benny Goodman. The All Stars' version is easily the tightest and most ferocious recording of that arrangement. But CC doesn't get a solo.)

That CC solo, though, is something I'd never seen transcribed (although maybe it was on Garry Hansen's now defunct site), but I could generally sing it back from memory. I was able to get the first three bars without trouble, but I'd started it around the 9th fret. I couldn't get the next couple bars to lay right on the fretboard. In a moment of frustration, I went to check Leo Valdez's Site to see if maybe he did have one up. Instead I found myself looking at another one of his transcriptions and the playing notes he provided. He mentioned that he had a different outlook on how to finger CC's playing versus more common transcirptions. While some of his fingering just seem implausible, many do lay better.

With than in mind, I tried playing the "All Star Jump" solo in the 4th-6th position, and using some of Charlie's classic shapes in that position, and the next couple bars clicked. So, since I figured I should write it out to keep for myself, I though I'd share.

Have fun - maybe when I have some time, I'll write some notes and analysis. But for now:

Charlie Christian - "All Star Jump" (pdf)

All Star Jump - Metronome All Stars (excerpt) by campusfive