Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Les Paul and his Trio - California Melodiesdotdotdot
artworkLes Paul has influenced a myriad of players over the years. He was an innovator and original stylist. While there's nothing surf about this release, it does represent part of the backdrop that laid the foundation for surf to evolve from. This CD is made up of track primarily taken from the 1944 season of Armed Forces Radio Service version of the Mutual Radio Network program California Melodies. The trio is Cal Gooden - rhythm guitar, Clint Norquist - bass, and Tommy Todd - piano. The tracklist is wrong, corrected as follows:

"Danger, Men At Work" [Bing Crosby's Kraft Music Hall version 1945]
17"Way Down Yonder In New Orleans" [Elgin Watch's Christmas Party Radio Special version 1945]"Danger, Men At Work" [Bing Crosby's Kraft Music Hall version 1945]
18"Dark Eyes"

This release is a very historic release with some fine early Les Paul tracks.
Picks: Begin The Beguine, All Of Me, Andante Cantible, Oh, Lady Be Good, Brazil, I Never Knew, For You, Limehouse Blues, Song Of The Islands, Forty Days and Forty Nights, Way Down Yonder In New Orleans, Out Of Nowhere, I've Been Working On The Railroad, It Had To Be You, Ain't Misbehavin', Caravan, Danger, Men At Work, Dark Eyes, Blue Skies, (Back Home Again In) Indiana

Track by Track Review

Begin The Beguine dotdotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

Introduction included, "Begin The Beguine" is treated with an exotic upright bass line and Les Paul's soft guitar lines. The piano plays a pleasant counterpoint to the guitar, and the rhythm guitar is barely audible. It's quite a nice vintage track. Some track distortion is audible due to the transcription source disc.

All Of Me dotdotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

"All Of Me" is a fast and jazzy number with Les Paul's fingers flying about the fret board. Spunky and flighty with fun in mind.

Andante Cantible dotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

Pre-boogie guitar raggin' in a stop-start jump jive arrangement fronts this walking bass jazz inclined track. The piano's lines are kinda cool, but mostly "Andante Cantible" is way to jammy for me.

Oh, Lady Be Good dotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

The introductory chords remind me of Johnny Fortune, but from there, it becomes more or less a jazz jam. Lots of noodling not unlike the eighties guitar rock nonsense that was so prevalent among the corporate bands. Spunky, but it didn't stick with me at all.

Brazil dotdotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

In some ways, this is a fairly straight forward arrangement. In others, it foreshadows small combo bebop of the fifties. The flamboyant guitar lines are nicely offset by the classic rhythm and bass lines of this fun song. "Brazil" actually opens with a glissando! The Velaires' version of this standard remains my favorite.

I Never Knew dotdotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

From the film Free and Easy, "I Never Knew" is a playful exercise in frothy melody complicated by the jazz tendency to circulate around notes with as many related notes as possible without losing the melody line. Some interesting guitar lines.

For You dotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

"For You" is played slowly with a silky softness. Pretty and well done, just not particularly remarkable.

Limehouse Blues dotdotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

Bass thumpin' a walking line, piano chording in sync, rhythm guitar gently supporting, and the lead guitar playing the lead lines with stilted flair. In some ways, "Limehouse Blues" is almost Oriental, yet it remains mostly in the jazz house. Occasional string bending is reminiscent of John Cipollina.

Song Of The Islands dotdotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

Ultra soft and breezy, with piano lines at the extreme upper end of the keyboard to add an almost bell-like counterpoint, like wind chimes gently reacting to island breezes. That's before the song launches into the jazz romp it mostly is, where piano and guitar share the leads. Thumpin' and pumpin' and hinting of Elvis Presley's flirtations with Hawaiian music.

Forty Days and Forty Nights dotdotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

The melody line to "Forty Days and Forty Nights" is a likely surf instro source, that is to say it could easily be adapted to the surf idiom. Rhythmic and fun, with a fine melody. This Les Paul original saw action lyrically in the late fifties and early sixties from the likes of Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks (who became Crowbar, and then The Band).

Way Down Yonder In New Orleans dotdotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

"Way Down Yonder In New Orleans" is softly played with a swingin' sound. Very pretty and fluid. This is nothing at all like the great rock transformation that evolved under Freddie Cannon.

Out Of Nowhere dotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

Swaying bluesy backing and silky guitar lines. The piano seems to be standout here, though it plays just a few lead lines.

I've Been Working On The Railroad dotdotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

Reaching deep into the American folk songbook, Les Paul and his Trio jazz up the traditional "I've Been Working On The Railroad." It becomes less a child's rhythm and more a jazz ensemble piece.

It Had To Be You dotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

This is a soft and slow, almost Ferrante and Teicher arrangement of this classic pop song. It's hard to hear "It Had To Be You" without thinking about Spike Jones.

Ain't Misbehavin' dotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

Fats Waller's suave jumpin' "Ain't Misbehavin'" swings softly. It's very pretty, but not really interesting to me.

Caravan dotdotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

The exotic bass thumps and rolling piano circulations, coupled with damped rhythm guitar, are the camels that carry Les Paul's guitar. There's the feel of the Duke Ellington original with the orchestra removed, and it seems to hint ever so slightly of Al Casey's heavy handed version. No, it's neither surf nor big band, but this softly rocking version has an aquatic fluidity to it nonetheless.

Danger, Men At Work dotdotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

A rockin' military song with stinging string bending and reveille rousing sensibilities. Some double picked notes fly from the guitar in noodly circular assaults. It's quite an exercise. "Danger, Men At Work" is from Bing Crosby's Kraft Music Hall in 1945.

Dark Eyes dotdotdotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

Also from Bing Crosby's Kraft Music Hall [1945], this rousing version of "Dark Eyes" a.k.a. "Ochichoynia" is simply rockin'. Pumpin' bass and flying guitar noodlery, along with choking string slides, and a few power chords, give this arrangement quite a bit of fire. Very cool!

Blue Skies dotdotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

With evolving flair and fine guitar-piano counterpoint, Les Paul and his Trio make a smiley face out of Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies." This energetic take is from the Andy Russell Show in late 1945.

(Back Home Again In) Indiana dotdotdot
Small Combo Jazz (Instrumental)

Again from the Andy Russell Show in 1945, they trio plays a pumpin' soft-jazz swing arrangement of "(Back Home Again In) Indiana." Perhaps the best audio fidelity here.