The Jazz.com Blog
February 10, 2009 · 2 comments
Most critics look at CDs that are, and ask why. But only a few critics wonder about CDs that never were, and ask why not. Jazz.com’s Walter Kolosky shows once again why he definitely belongs in the second camp. Read on. T.G.
Here is the next in my series of fantasy reviews. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept under which I am operating please visit the introductory section of my John Coltrane fantasy fusion album review. You may read it here.
This time out I review a fantasy band that could have been a killer precursor to the fusion power trio. I hope you enjoy it.
Charlie Christian Electrified Trio
Boppin’ at Sweet Basil’s (Dial 93017)
The latest bebop disk to hit the market is a Dial live recording of the unique Charlie Christian Electrified Trio featuring Charlie on electric guitar, dynamo Buddy Rich on drums, and Stan Clarke on electrified bass. This is Charlie’s first recording featuring his own band. Recorded during a radio broadcast, Bopping at Sweet Basil’s demonstrates that the “Genius of the Electric Guitar” is also the “Genius of the Bebop Style.”
Swingman Buddy “Baby Traps” Rich, having recently spent some time playing with Bird in Boston, seems at home playing the Bop. Stan Clarke, a remarkable young man hailing from Philadelphia, plays the new electrified bass.
The get-together had been in the works for some time. Apparently, Charlie had been impressed with some work Buddy had done with Dizzy. Rich has been bopping a lot lately. Rumor had it that Buddy had been itching to get out of a contract with a very famous swing leader. Eventually Buddy, a volatile character to say the least, found a way to get fired. Buddy learned about Charlie’s interest and the two agreed to hook up for a few shows to see how it would go.
Charlie had also heard about this kid who was playing the electrified bass and amazing the cats in Philadelphia. The story goes that Stan Clarke had sat in a few nights covering for his band’s sick electric guitarist. Mouths opened as he laid out some bebop melody lines on his homemade electrified bass. Charlie traveled out to Philly to hear Stan play and asked him if he wanted to go in with him and Buddy and form a new kind of electrified trio? Stan was stunned that the great Charlie Christian would come just to hear him play. As excited as he was, Clarke said he never heard anything Charlie was asking him, but found himself saying “yes” over and over again.
Of all the boppers, Charlie’s playing is truest to the cause. By now, most jazz audiences have become familiar with the electric guitar as a lead instrument. But while the shock may be gone, the amazement is not. Charlie’s soloing is the most beautiful in all of jazz. There is never a wrong note. Each strike of the string is perfect.
On this recording, Christian improvises effortlessly over a busy bass line and syncopated, but heavy drumbeat. The fact this is an amplified trio will threaten many in the jazz community, which always yearns for something new yet remains ever-afraid when it occurs. But it makes no difference to these players. To help replace the missing horns, Charlie has begun to intersperse his solos with some nice chords that add a new and welcome dimension to his well-known style. On several occasions, Clarke even adds some chord support on electrified bass that thrilled this listener!
The band ran several standards as tributes to some of their comrades. “Night in Tunisia” and “Salt Peanuts,” complete with non-sense vocals from Buddy, were dedicated to Diz and Kenny Clarke. The band also tackled Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple from the Apple.” The band sounds particularly strong on several originals written by Clarke. Two tunes, “Philly Bounce” and “School Days,” are up-tempo pieces that feature some real hot playing. Clarke also wrote a beautiful ballad he calls “Quiet Afternoon.” For a change, Buddy quiets down on this number and gently rides his cymbals while Charlie plays the most luscious solo over a viola-sounding progression provided by Clarke. You can almost feel the crowd melt. The liner notes say that Clarke took a bow to his plugged-in bass for this piece. Clarke and his instrument may prove to be controversial, but clearly he is a very capable player and promising composer.
According to Dial, the latest electronic recording devices were used to capture this event. And truly, the sound is impeccable. It is appropriate that such modern equipment was used to record such a modern sound. Expect to hear more from this distinctive unit and especially keep your ears open for more from Stan Clarke and his wonderful instrument.
Charlie Christian Electrified Trio- Bopping at Sweet Basil’s: Night in Tunisia; Salt Peanuts; Philly Bounce; School Days; Quiet Afternoon
Personnel: Charlie Christian, electric guitar; Buddy Rich, drums; Stan Clarke, electrified bass
This blog entry posted by Walter Kolosky