In the past 26 years, the Charlie Christian International Music Festival has grown a great deal.
was a grassroots party, if you will,” said Anita Arnold, executive
director of festival sponsor Black Liberated Arts Center. “You could
even call it a block party.”
for the Oklahoma City-raised, influential swing and jazz guitarist
Charlie Christian, the event has since grown from an informal party to a
nearly week-long festival with a full slate of events. This year’s
edition features six events over five days, starting Tuesday.
the festival grew, it changed locations often, each time preceding a
revitalization of the area. From the Zoo Amphitheatre to Second Street
to Regatta Park, it has turned people’s thoughts toward a forgotten part
of the city.
time we went in with the festival, we cleaned it up,” Arnold said.
“We’ve been pointing the way. And Charlie Christian pointed the way for a
lot of musicians.”
single-note guitar style was a part of the move from the sixstring as
merely a rhythm instrument in jazz to a soloing one in the late 1930s
and early 1940s. He died in 1942, at the age of 25.
his legend lives on in the festival. If Christian, who would have
turned 95 this summer, could have seen the performers on this year’s
lineup, he’d see everything from a jam with the local Jeremy Thomas Band
to California-based world/fusion group Tizer. The featured musician is
former “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” musical director Kevin Eubanks. The
final two days unleash several acts in true festival style at
Bicentennial Park, 500 Couch.
the festival will take place in several locations, organizers are in
talks with Bricktown Ballpark to have a permanent home, hopefully in
place by Christian’s 100th birthday, five years from now.