Charlie Christian's career was all too brief, lasting a mere five years. After catching the attention of John Hammond, who recommended him to Benny Goodman, he appeared on fewer than 100 sessions between 1939 and 1941, mostly broadcasts, plus a few privately recorded sessions issued on various labels over the years, in addition to his well-known studio recordings and with Goodman. While the music in this compilation has been previously available, this collection has to much recommend it. First of all, new digital transfers have been made from original acetates from the Jerry Newhouse collection, rather than relying on later generation sources. Frank Driggs' detailed liner notes provide a wealth of historical background and there are also lots of photographs. But the most important factor is the music itself. The four performances by Christian with tenor saxophonist Jerry Jerome (who was working in Goodman's orchestra while Christian was playing in the clarinetist's sextet) are informal jam sessions made between concerts with Goodman, with two regional players, pianist Frankie Hines and a teenaged Oscar Pettiford, the latter still a few years away from achieving fame for his virtuoso playing. Following Jerome's opening solo in "Tea for Two," Christian dazzles with his confident playing and solid rhythmic support, while Hines also takes a chorus and Pettiford is barely audible. Christian's spacious, inventive solo is the highlight of "Stardust," while Christian's dominates the two takes of "I Got Rhythm." In the Goodman sextet broadcasts, much of the solo space goes to the leader and vibraphonist Lionel Hampton in these relatively brief performances (most of which run right around three minutes), though Christian makes himself known when he solos and with his presence in the rhythm section. Among Christian's features are a bluesy solo in a version of "Flying Home" and some tasty breaks in his "Shivers" (co-composed with Hampton), while he steals the show from the veterans with his playing in "Seven Come Eleven." It is tragic that Charlie Christian died far too young from tuberculosis, but this rewarding collection is an excellent investment. ~ Ken Dryden, Rovi

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