Wire Choir

Three USC Thornton students perform with their guitars with one more playing the drums in the background.
This is a view of the guitar up-close and sheet music on a stand in the background.

Wire Choir is made up of five guitarists, a rhythm section and a saxophone soloist and is directed by Frank Potenza. The ensemble primarily plays Tony Rizzi’s arrangements, which are built around the improvised solos of seminal jazz guitarist Charlie Christian. Rizzi transcribed the solos, harmonized them for five guitars, and used them as the centerpiece for his arrangements. Charlie Christian is a towering figure in jazz history. He left an indelible mark on jazz guitar in his tragically short career.

The arrangements were originally played by Rizzi’s Wire Choir ensemble of the 1970s. It was an institution in the Los Angeles jazz community, and many celebrated guitarists were members, including Jimmy Wyble, John Pisano and USC alumni Lee Ritenour and Joseph Jewell. The music is regarded as being the benchmark of guitar ensemble literature, and Thornton students carry on the proud tradition and high musical standards that Rizzi set for jazz guitarists everywhere.