Charlie Christian : father of the modern jazz guitar style


Born today, 1916, in Dallas, Texas, Charlie Christian was for a short time the most influential jazz musician, ever, and only exceeded in that regard by another great jazz Charlie, “Bird” Parker.

It can be said without exaggeration that virtually every jazz guitarist that emerged during 1940-65 sounded like a relative of Charlie Christian. The first important electric guitarist, Christian played his instrument with the fluidity, confidence, and swing of a saxophonist. Although technically a swing stylist, his musical vocabulary was studied and emulated by the bop players, and when one listens to players ranging from Tiny Grimes, Barney Kessel, and Herb Ellis, to Wes Montgomery and George Benson, the dominant influence of Christian is obvious.

I am beginning today listening to some of the generally excellent, although flawed, box set “Genius of the Electric Guitar” which in 93 tracks captures much of what made Christian great.


Here’s a clip, sorry not a video of him playing, but a good example of his soloing.

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