From the April 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY ADAM PERLMUTTER
The guitar was generally regarded as a rhythm instrument until Charlie Christian began soloing on his electric Gibson with Benny Goodman in 1939. But there were notable exceptions in the 1920s and ’30s—namely, the gypsy virtuoso Django Reinhardt and the Philadelphia-born guitarist Salvatore Massaro, who went by the adopted name Eddie Lang.
Lang died at the age of 30, leaving behind a small but enduring body of work. His musical brilliance is best witnessed in his solo work, and in his duets with violinist Joe Venuti and guitarists Lonnie Johnson and Carl Kress.
In 1927, Lang recorded his unaccompanied interpretation of the popular song “A Little Love, a Little Kiss,” transcribed here in its entirety. The guitarist’s arrangement is a revelation, with its sophisticated harmonic treatment throughout and its periodic shredding that predates some of the lines we identify with Django Reinhardt—just check out the swift flourishes in bars 29 and 44 and the diminished chord run in bar 41.
“A Little Love, A Little Kiss” is demanding of the fretting fingers and you’ll only be able to play it smoothly once you have all of the chord grips—some of which might not be familiar—firmly in your muscle memory. You might try penciling in the fingerings that work best for you. For instance, in bar 1, play the G chord with your fourth, second, and third fingers on strings 3, 2, and 1, respectively. Keep that shape held in place while you add the fretted notes on strings 5 and 6 with your first finger. Efficiency is key here.
Lang played the tune with an elastic sense of timing; for readability’s sake, I’ve expressed the rhythms as straightforwardly as possible. To best capture Lang’s time feel, try playing along with his original recording, easily findable on YouTube. (Be sure to tune your guitar slightly sharp to match the recording.) But remember that what’s most important in playing this transcription is to make sure that the chords are smoothly connected—as if being sung.
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This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.