Following recent references to Artie Shaw and his Challis, I asked my
father if he could shed any light in this direction, knowing that his
musical background was very much in the swing band tradition. (He spent
quite a bit of his youth playing drums.)
Well, Father soon produced a recording from his collection: a cd
reissue (excellent sound quality) of Shaw, plus various ensembles and
soloists he worked with. We just kept going until we found one of the
Gramercy Five, which consisted of clarinet (Shaw), trumpet, guitar
(electric), drums, and Johnny Guarnieri on harpsichord, playing 'Smoke gets
in your eyes' . It was really fascinating to listen to - the harpsichord
seemed to have a sort of continuo role, operating quietly in the background
until very near the end, when it became a bit more assertive. It had a
distinctively bright, metallic timbre, and blended very well with the other
instruments. I've never seen a Challis in 3 dimensions, or heard one, and I
would not say it reminded me of any other harpsichord I know, but it sounded
particularly effective in a duet with the guitar.
I don't know the date of the original recording. Father commented on the
sound quality of the disc, reminding me that the earliest tracks we'd heard
were recorded nearly 70 years ago. He's going to make a note of any other
pieces he finds which use the harpsichord, so that hopefully I shall hear
some more of it.
How versatile the harpsichord is....