Friday, May 29, 2009

Rose Room by the Benny Goodman Sextet w/ Charlie Christian

Rose Room was one of the first studio tunes recorded 2 October 1939 by guitarist Charlie Christian after he joined the Benny Goodman Sextet. I love this and other Goodman small group tracks as they are a good introduction to jazz and swing. They are popular circa forties' era tunes, with members taking melodic solos that can be appreciated against the chord changes. These tracks initially helped me 'get' jazz, rather than being scared off by some of the less user friendly forms of it.

The story goes that Charlie Christian sat in unannounced with Goodman's group at a live performance at the Victor Hugo restaurant in Los Angeles on 16 August 1939, at the instigation of producer John Hammond, who had been hearing about Charlie's electric guitar work in Oklahoma City. (Apparently Goodman had not shown much interest in Charlie when he had auditioned briefly on acoustic guitar at a recording session earlier that day). According to Wikipedia, 'displeased at the surprise, Goodman called "Rose Room", a tune he assumed that Christian would be unfamiliar with. Unknown to Goodman, Charles had been reared on the tune, and he came in with his solo — which was to be the first of about twenty, all of them different, all unlike anything Goodman had heard before. That version of "Rose Room" lasted forty minutes; by its end, Christian was in the band. In the course of a few days, Christian went from making $2.50 a night to making $150 a week'.

Also worth noting are Benny's lovely clarinet playing and tone, Lionel Hampton's vibes, and the sextet's playing generally. I never thought I would get into this sort of music (preferring rock and pop) but this stuff is worth exploring. If you like this tune, check out Charlie's other recorded tracks with Benny Goodman, as well as some of his more extended soloing live at Minton's and Monroe's. (Regarding the latter, see my Charlie Christian videos for Stompin' at the Savoy and Swing to Bop as examples).

Sadly there is no film footage of this sextet, so I have put together a slide show using images of the actual members who played on the track. Note that at the beginning of the video, the last two Sextet names are smaller than the others. This was not intentional, but something that happened when converting to a Windows file.

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