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The Guitar
quasi-Hawaiian glissando effects, Smith made a record with the Kirk orchestra, Floyd's Guitar Blues, in March 1939. A minor sensation, it was a trigger for the whole fusillade of new guitar styles to be issued only months later by Charlie Christian's arrival in New York.
With the advent of Christian, the guitar came of age in jazz. As early as 1938, in small bands around North Dakota, he was using the single-note line of a guitar as a third part, voiced witfr trumpet and tenor saxophone, thus removing it from the purely rhythmic function and giving it full membership tantamount to the addition of another horn. On his solos, he played with an utterly relaxed, even beat mainly in eighth notes. Occasionally he might play a Reinhardt solo taken note for note from one of Django's records, but basically his style was at an opposite pole, for Christian was the quintessence of swing. Harmonically he was able to experiment with augmented and diminished chords, to weave his own web around some of the better standard tunes such as You Go To My Head—a. practice beyond the harmonic scope of most other guitarists, indeed of most other jazzmen, in 1938. Rhythmically, according to observers who heard him at that time, his ideas were highly suggestive of what was to he known as bop. That his connection with bop was more than co­incidental was confirmed when, after John Hammond had brought him to New York in the summer of 1939 to join the Benny Goodman Sextet, he spent many nights, after hours, jam­ming at Mintons in Harlem, where Gillespie, Monk, Kenny Clarke and their fellow-chemists held informal conclaves.
Charlie Christian was only a "star," in the Hollywood sense, for two years (he contracted tuberculosis and died early in 1942), but it took only the first few months of this brief span to re-orient the whole concept of jazz guitar. Every guitarist since then can be judged largely in terms of the debt he owes to Chris­tian and how much of Christian's sublime facility he has acquired.
The true Charlie Christian spirit has been captured most closely by Barney Kessel, formerly of the Oscar Peterson Trio, now one of the more preoccupied denizens of the Hollywood recording jungle; by Irving Ashby and Johnny Collins, both of whom were sheltered from public view through lengthy associa-