Les Paul

Les Paul

Les Paul has had such a staggeringly huge influence over the way American popular music sounds today that many tend to overlook his significant impact upon the jazz world. Before his attention was diverted toward recording multi-layered hits for the pop market, he made his name as a brilliant jazz guitarist whose exposure on coast-to-coast radio programs guaranteed a wide audience of susceptible young musicians. Heavily influenced by Django Reinhardt at first, Paul eventually developed an astonishingly fluid, hard-swinging style of his own, one that featured extremely rapid runs, fluttered and repeated single notes, and chunking rhythm support, mixing in country & western licks and humorous crowd-pleasing effects. No doubt his brassy style gave critics a bad time, but the gregarious, garrulous Paul didn't much care; he was bent on showing his audiences a good time.

Though he couldn't read music, Paul had a magnificent ear and innate sense of structure, conceiving complete arrangements entirely in his head before he set them down track by track on disc or tape. Even on his many pop hits for Capitol in the late '40s and early '50s, one can always hear a jazz sensibility at work in the rapid lead solo lines and bluesy bent notes -- and no one could close a record as suavely as Les. And of course, his early use of the electric guitar and pioneering experiments with multitrack recording, guitar design and electronic effects devices have filtered down to countless jazz musicians. Among the jazzers who acknowledge his influence are George Benson, Al DiMeola, Stanley Jordan (whose neck-tapping sound is very reminiscent of Paul's records), Pat Martino and Bucky Pizzarelli.

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