The 27th Annual Charlie Christian International Music Festival will pay tribute to one of Oklahoma City's pioneering musicians next week with five days of historical exhibits, a book signing and live music.
Dubbed “the first important electric guitarist” by AllMusic.com, Christian was born July 29, 1916, in Bonham, Texas, but grew up in Oklahoma City and became immersed in the Deep Deuce neighborhood's thriving jazz scene.
He actually started out playing the piano locally and began to utilize an amplified guitar in 1937, after becoming a student of Eddie Durham, who invented it.
He earned a reputation as a gifted player and found a job with Benny Goodman. With his remarkable licks and solos, Christian helped establish the guitar as a lead instrument instead of just part of the rhythm section. He also became one of the pioneers of the bebop style of jazz before his death of tuberculosis on March 2, 1942, at the age of 25.
Organized by Black Liberated Arts Center (BLAC) Inc., the festival will launch at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Oklahoma City Council Chambers with a performance by the Morris McCraven Trio.
The festivities will move to Urban Roots, 322 NE 2, at 7 p.m. Tuesday for smooth jazz and the opening of a Deep Deuce history exhibit. BLAC Inc. Executive Director Anita G. Arnold also will sign copies of her book “Oklahoma City Music: Deep Deuce and Beyond.”
On Wednesday, an exhibit about the musical history of Frederick A. Douglass High School will open at 1 p.m. at the school, 900 Martin Luther King Ave. The Oklahoma History Center is curating the exhibit, which will be open throughout the festival, Arnold said.
Jamming Across the City will feature simultaneous jam sessions at 7 p.m. Thursday at Urban Roots and Woody's Sports Bar & Grill, 2501 NE 23. Admission is $5.
This year, the festival's weekend outdoor concerts on June 1 and 2 will move to a new venue, Metro Tech Amphitheater, 1900 Springlake Drive. Live music will begin at 6 both nights. Admission will be $10 each night.
The all-Oklahoma line-up features several newcomers to the festival, Arnold said. Reality & The New Era, Equilibrium, Billie Jeane and Robert Banks Band will perform on June 1, with reunited local favorites After Five Jazz headlining. On June 2, Miss Cooki, Spencer Brown & The Dudes, Jeremy Jackson & Sultry Soul, Grady Nichols Band and headliner Jeremy Thomas Quartet will play.
The festival will close at 5 p.m. June 3 at Douglass High School with the James Cleveland Gospel Show conducted by the Rev. Dr. A. Cortes Rex.
For more information, call 524-3800 or go to www.charliechristian.org.