Benny Goodman Sextet (with Charlie Christian): The Sheik Of Araby

Track

The Sheik Of Araby

Group

Benny Goodman Sextet

CD

Charlie Christian: Genius of the Electric Guitar (box) (Columbia 65564)

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Musicians:

Benny Goodman (clarinet), Lionel Hampton (vibes), Johnny Guarnieri (piano), Charlie Christian (guitar), Artie Bernstein (bass), Nick Fatool (drums).

Composed by Harry B. Smith, Frances Wheeler & Ted Snyder

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Recorded: Los Angeles, April 3, 1940

Albumcovercharliechristian-thegeniusoftheelectricguitar

Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

This performance by the Benny Goodman Sextet was originally issued as “The Sheik”, as the original melody of “The Sheik Of Araby” is barely referenced by anyone in the group, but the chord sequence is clearly that of the old standard. Nick Fatool starts the proceedings with a tom-tom introduction, there is an original line played by clarinet, guitar and vibes, and then Goodman and Hampton engage in a fascinating duet where each plays the key notes of the original song, but never enough to be an actual reading of the tune. Hampton takes the next solo, and it starts with a phrase out of the key. However, he uses the old trick of repeating the phrase, as if to say “I meant to do that”. He keeps toying with notes outside of the key, but he never completely convinces us that he means it. There’s no doubt about Charlie Christian’s harmonic sense, though, and his brilliant, self-assured solo makes everything before sound hopelessly old-fashioned. Johnny Guarnieri provides a sparkling solo that reflects Count Basie and Basie’s root style of stride. The performance ends of a chorus of 4-bar exchanges between the four soloists, with each player listening intently and commenting on the phrases played by the preceding soloist.

Reviewer: Thomas Cunniffe

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