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Benny Goodman: Our Interview About Charlie Christian


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Thirty years ago, I was preparing materials for a Guitar Player magazine "special tribute" cover story on Charlie Christian. On a whim, I called a New York operator and asked for the "Benjamin Goodman" listings. No luck there. "But," she said, "I have five listings for B. Goodman." I wrote all of them down. The second one to pick up the phone was THE Benny Goodman, who graciously agreed to speak with me about guitarist Charlie Christian.


Asked what distinguished Charlie's playing, Mr. Goodman responded, "Well, he was unique! A brilliant musician. Inventive. Well, there’s nothing you could say about him more than that, you know. He was way ahead of his time, and a joy to listen to." He also recalled that Charlie was "retired and reserved and thin. . . . He enjoyed a good laugh. But by gosh, when he sat down and played the guitar, he was something!"


My favorite part came when I asked Mr. Goodman if he shared the view that Christian was a bebop pioneer: "Well, that’s true, isn’t it? Yeah. But to me, he sounded quite different than that. He wasn’t as hectic as bebop, as far as I’m concerned. But I can see the influence that I can imagine that some people would say he had over bop. His inventions, his harmonic structure – quite miraculous. There was a phrase in – what was it? [sings several measures of Christian’s “Air Mail Special” solo.] Remember the release? Yeah. [sings some “Air Mail Special” riffs.] Those kinds of phrases – extraordinary!"


I’ve got to say, hearing Benny Goodman sing Charlie Christian solos was one of the highpoints of my career as a music journalist!


If you're interested in reading the whole interview, I've posted it here: Benny Goodman on Charlie Christian

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