Swing Guitar

Dedicated to pre-bebop jazz guitar.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

X-mas Gift List: CD's to buy now

Since the Christmas season is rolling around again, I figured I'd put together a list of essential recording you might want to look into or ask for this Christmas.

Overview Samplers:
Various: Pioneers of Jazz Guitar: 1927-1939 (Yazoo) - This is a 24 track collection of Eddie Lang, Carl Kress and Dick McDounough playing in solo and duo settings. These are examples of the original jazz guitar tradition. All jazz guitar starts here.
Various: Hittin' on All Six (Proper Box) - This $20 dollar, 4-CD set is a fantastic value, AND it's an essential collection of early jazz guitar. It has a pretty scattershot sampling of some artists, but has so many great tracks, and many that you'd otherwise have to buy a whole CD to get one track. Plus the liner notes are informative and the personel is listed on everything.
Various: Swing to Bop: Guitars in Flight 1939-1947 (Hep) - This one CD has perhaps the best sampling of rare and unique tracks, without adding too many duplicates. There is no Charlie Christian, no Freddie Green, no Eddie Lang, and no early Django - franky, you should have the complete recording of each of those artists anyway. This has a bunch of track you'd otherwise have a hard time finding. Pickin' for Patsy (Allan Reuss), Buck Jumpin' Al Casey) are crucial tracks, and the samplings of George Barnes, Mary Osbourne, early Les Paul, and Tony Mattola are really good.

Artist Collections:
Charlie Christian: The Genius of the Electric Guitar (Columbia Legacy) - This 4 CD Box Set is bascially the single best thing I've ever bought. Here, you get ALL of the BG sessions that CC played on, including all of the alternate takes. The sound quality is top notch (you can hear the pitches of Nick Fatool's tom-toms on the intro to "Sheik") and the liner notes are superlative. A MUST HAVE. But it doesn't have any airchecks or the Minton's jam sessions...
Charlie Christian: Complete Live Recordings (Definitive) - This 4 CD Box Set is all of the CC airchecks and jam sessions at Minton's. Add this to the Columbia box and you've got all of CC's recordings, except for his random sideman work with other artists such as Lionel Hampton, Edmund Hall, etc.
Oscar Aleman: Swing Guitar Masterpieces 1937-1957 (Acoustic) - This 2-disc is most of the Oscar Aleman that is available outside of Argentina. The liner notes are loving written by David Grisman and feature a transcription of Aleman's "Sweet Sue" solo.
George Barnes: The Complete Standard Transcrpitions - George Barnes is definately the first electric jazz guitarist, and he is pretty unknown quantity relative to his contemporaries. Growing up the midwest some of his work has a fantastic western swing influence, but its all jazz. This 2-disc features Barnes' own small group which is very orchestrated chamber jazz. Good stuff none-the-less.

I'll keep adding stuff as I think of them.


  • At 10:16 AM, Anonymous swingbob said…

    I have noticed that there seem to be a number of different CC CDs titled "Genius of the Electric Guitar." Are you referring to the set that comes in packaging that looks like an old amp?
    Also, just this week I stumbled upon a couple of CDs that you and your readers might enjoy. They're by a Canadian group called the Susie Arioli Swing Band. She has an understated, beautiful voice on old standards, and the group has two guitars, straight rhythm and "solo and fill." Really tasty stuff all around. The CDs I got were "It's Wonderful" and "Pennies From Heaven." Usual disclaimer: no financial interest, don't know 'em, just good music.
    Actually, I can't have much of a financial interest in anything these days, because I broke open my piggy bank about two weeks ago and bought an Eastman 810-CE. I've been having fun with it, snail-pacing my way through Charlton Johnson's book.

  • At 10:58 PM, Blogger Jonathan Stout said…

    I was definitely referring to that box set. It's great!

    I've only heard a few little bits of that band. What I heard was nice, but not all that authentic, more retro, sort of like the ditty bops. Perhaps I've not heard the right stuff?

    You did well on your guitar choice. You can't do better, except maybe getting a non-cutaway Eastman - but that'll be next Christmas, right?

    And of course that book is pretty much the only choice(despite having aweful sound samples and some song examples that are way too modern). Good work!

  • At 6:28 AM, Anonymous swingbob said…

    First of all, it occurred to me right after I sent my last post that it was in somewhat bad taste to tout another band on your blog without first touting your own. I guess I was assuming that anyone reading your blog would know about it. I have your "Crazy Rhythm" CD, have really enjoyed it, and recommend it to anyone reading this. It deserves a place on Christmas lists as well. Great guitar, interesting arrangements and a thoroughly engaging singer. For aspiring swing guitarists like myself, it's an instructional CD without trying to be.
    As for the Arioli band I mentioned in my previous post, unless their later CDs are way different than the first two that I own, I have to think you've got them confused with someone else. I can't see (I guess I should say hear) any resemblance to the retro-pop of the Ditty Bops. As to whether they are authentic, I couldn't really say. Authenticity, I've found, is somewhat in the ear of the beholder. The original players of the 30's and 40's, after all, didn't try to be "authentic," they just tried to create good music within a certain set of conventions. Depart from those conventions too far and you lose that crucial connection with your audience; follow them too strictly and you become, well, conventional. Let's just say that the Arioli band is, at least on the first two CDs, clearly "informed" by classic swing.
    Thanks, Jonathan, for the encouraging words about my newest guitar and my current "course of study." One question, if you ever get a minute. In the Johnson S&BB Guitar book, there are two full-page tunes near the front. "Urban Sprawl" is clearly "Satin Doll." Does the "Tune in G" on p. 11 fit any particular song(s)? "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" came to mind, but he might be thinking of something else.


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