While I was aware that Les Paul (b. 1915; he is still among us) had jammed with Charlie Christian, had been a very prolific member of the JATP gang, and had actually recorded with Pat Martino, I had never listened to his music until the arrival in my postbox of the new Avid two-CD collection, Les Paul: The Jazzman (so titled to distinguish these recordings from those of Rhubarb Red: The Country Musician, or Les Paul: The Multi-track Pop Artist, etc.), priced at the ridiculously low price of 3,98 GBP.
All of the tracks are from 1944 or 1945, and feature Paul with the likes of JJ Johnson, Illinois Jacquet, Nat “King” Cole, Vic Dickenson, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Arnold Ross, Barney Kessel, etc. As this indicates the music is largely swing, with some traces of early bebop. The JATP sessions are … well … “robust” with some pretty awful screaming by Jacquet but very nice solo work by Paul. The most stylish contributions are, however, his work with smaller combos, perhaps particularly his work with quartets, where there is substantial space for stretching out.
The liner notes (by Brian Priestley) seem to make Art Tatum the main influence on Paul’s playing. However, I think the over-whelming influence is actually Django Reinhardt; much of Paul’s playing on these tracks sounds like–in fact, anticipates–Reinhardt’s electrical playing (1947-1953). Buy this twofer!