Charlie Christian is the greatest guitarist who ever lived. That’s my opinion, but many would agree. He invented the sensibility that I operate in now, which has to do with feel, feel, and feel. It’s possible to play many notes at the same time on the guitar, but it’s not a piano, and it never will be. Charlie Christian showed us some things about rhythm on this instrument that people still haven’t dealt with.
I studied with Rodney Jones for many years, who studied with Barney Kessel, who spent a little time with Charlie Christian. From this I can claim a very tenuous connection to the CC lineage. I play a Charlie Christian Guitar, but it’s not about the gear – it’s about that feel. All the fancy notes in the world won’t mean anything without a strong beat.
Here’s an article I wrote for Ethan Iverson’s “Do The Math” about the “Stompin’ at the Savoy” solo. There’s a video of me playing the solo along with the record, analysis, and some opinions and speculations.
Charlie Christian will be 100 this July 29. We remember him by keeping it moving, keeping that rhythm.
-Miles Okazaki, 2016