Charlie Barnet was an American saxaphonist and bandleader in the 1940s. The peak of his musical career was between 1939-1941, beginning with his first hit, “Cherokee” in 1939. Another popular dance hit was Skyliner in 1944. He was an outspoken admirer of Count Basie & Duke Ellington, so much so that when Barnet lost his music charts in a Los Angeles fire, Count Basie loaned Barnet his charts. Barnet was one of the first bandleaders to integrate his bands, that is to have both black and white musicians playing together. He began to switch from playing swing to bebop music in 1947, and eventually retired altogether in 1949, as he was one of a few heirs in a wealthy family.
My first encounter with Charlie Barnet’s music was shortly after returning from the 2003 Harlem Jazz Dance Festival in NYC, which was also my first experience of a world-class Lindy Hop competition, in which amazing competitors danced to blazingly fast music. After that, I was so fired up to dance to fast lindy hop music, that I not only took workshops in “Fast Lindy Hop”, but I also asked a local DJ friend to make me a fast lindy compilation to practice too. He did, and several of the tracks became some of my favorite dance tunes, including:
Some other great tunes performed by the Charlie Barnet Orchestra that I came across later on included more moderate tempo songs like:
- Moten Swing
- Charleston Alley
- Things Ain’t What They Used to Be
- Shake, Rattle & Roll (An Afternoon of Moax)
There are literally tons of great swing dance tunes by Mr. Barnet, so here are a few albums to help you get your collection started: