Charlie Christian was born on this day in 1916. His time in the spotlight was tragically short-lived. He died in 1942, aged 25, after contracting tuberculosis. Yet, he is known as a deeply influential musician. He was one of the finest improvisers of the swing era and one of the first heralded artists of the bebop movement. He also helped pioneer improvisation on electrically amplified equipment and bring the guitar to the forefront as a solo instrument.
He first gained widespread notoriety with Benny Goodman, with whom he began performing in 1939. Goodman was one of the most popular bandleaders of the swing era. He featured Christian prominently on such celebrated recordings as “Wholly Cats.” This take on the song with Goodman’s sextet is from 1940. It also includes Count Basie on piano.
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