That “Almost Fainting” Experience

December 17, 2008

Nicolai Foss

As recently recounted on this blog, Jimmy Raney once remarked that he “almost fainted” when he first heard Charlie Christian with the Benny Goodman orchestra playing “Solo Flight.” This was an absolutely decisive moment in his evolution as a jazz guitarist. Many musicians and music fans have told of similar experiences.

I have had a number of almost fainting experiences myself. In fact, my first one also involved Charlie Christian. The scene: 1979 — two teenageboys drinking tea and smoking pipes and listening to the jazz record collection of the mother of one of the boys (how nerdy can you get?). After listening to — we thought — some rather dull Ellington, suddenly a mildly distorted, wildly swinging , but poorly recorded guitar sound came blasting out of the loudspeakers. What was that? Well, Charlie C playing “Swing to Bop” (the 1941 Minton sessions). I think I insisted on hearing the track at least a dozen until my buddy grew tired of it.

I remember other almost fainting experiences. Some of Tal’s early stuff had that effect (particularly, The Swinging Guitar of Tal Farlow), as well as Wes’ Smokin at the Half Note, and, particularly, Barney Kessel’s wildly swinging late-1960s work with Stephane Grappelli.

Now, what — dear J&A readers — are your almost fainting experiences?

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5 Responses to “That “Almost Fainting” Experience”

  1. Carsten B Says:

    Jeez that was just before high school started. I remember I almost fainted when I saw that nerd sitting next to me with an icelandic woolen sweater (in July), corderoids and the indispensable pipe. That was you.

    I was not into Christian myself. Rather Frankie Beverly and the Maze, Earth Wind and Fire, George Duke and Lee Ritenour. Great stuff.

  2. Nicolai Foss Says:

    LOL. Yeah — I remember the sweater which I loved dearly. Only it wasn’t icelandic.

  3. Carsten B Says:

    Really? Anyway it was brutal hot for July! Complemets for the blog. It has quality but I would expect nothing less from you. Do you still play arch top your self? I am really getting into the drums again doing something about me technique and slowly seing results.

  4. Carl Says:

    I didn’t come close to fainting, but when I saw guitarist Peter Finger perform live, my jaw dropped and I was transfixed.

    I had heard some amazing things on electric guitar before, but I was new to acoustic guitar wizardry and didn’t have any expectations before when I walked into the Berkeley, Calif., venue where he was to perform. Seeing him perform up close — and hearing his fascinating compositions played with such fire and fluidity — led me to reconsider what I thought was possible from the acoustic guitar. A musical epiphany of sublime proportions!

    This event was after the release of his “Open Strings” CD, on a tour with International Guitar Night. Unfortunately, Peter Finger doesn’t travel often to California, so I may have to make a special trip oversees just to see him perform. It’d be worth it!


  5. Hi Guys,

    The closest I have ever come to fainting was the first time I strapped on a Les Paul and tried to stand up.
    Does that count?


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