SWING TO BOP (1941) by Charlie Christian

Charlie Christian is generally recognised as the person who popularised the electric guitar (although not the first) and who changed everyones thinking about how jazz could be played on it.

As well as playing guitar for Benny Goodman, Charlie participated in after hours jam sessions with other musicians in places such as Mintons and Monroes in New York City. On 12 May 1941 Charlie played Swing to Bop (also known as Topsy) at Mintons, with Joe Guy on trumpet, Kenny Kersey on piano, Nick Fenton on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums. This live track excerpt is characterised by longer solos than Charlie would typically play with Goodman, and is a good indication of his incredible improvisational abilities. His influence on guitarists then and since has been massive.

Famed jazz guitarist Barney Kessel spent three days with Charlie watching him play. “He played probably 95% downstrokes and held a very stiff big triangular pick very tightly between his thumb and first finger. He rested his second, third and fourth fingers very firmly on the pickguard…”. Source: Guitar Player March 1982.

Sadly, there is no film available of Charlie Christian playing live, so I have included a slide show for this track.