CD Reviews

TONY TARAVELLA: Dedicated to Les Paul

Ex-San Diegan Tony Taravella now hails from Laughlin, where he has released several discs of instrumental jazz guitar CDs. These have included sets of American Songbook, Beatles, and surf classics, some with a backing band and others without. His latest is Dedicated to Les Paul, a dozen tracks that the guitar immortal recorded back in the day. He plays the legendary Gibson guitar named after the disc’s namesake, and this is a bare-bones affair—while Taravella plays backing guitar, bass, and drums, the arrangements are mostly limited to muted backing tracks with Taravella laying down a primary and overdubbed guitar work over the top. The lo-fi and spare arrangements work well to emulate the 1950’s recorded work of Paul.

After getting untracked on “It’s Been a Long, Long Time,” things get really familiar with “How High the Moon,” a hit for Paul and Mary Ford 79 years ago, when electric guitars were just getting off the ground (and the Gibson guitars named for him were not yet commercially available). The slick jazzy pace of this tune is captured, and Taravella uses some of the techniques Paul made popular in the recording industry, including echo overdubs, loads of reverb, and other effects. “Limehouse Blues” features some flashy moments by Taravella with him flying through some slick arpeggios; as a whole these are kept at a minimum on this project, which takes a “less is more” approach to the songs.

Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” is made for guitar and here it is built on overdubbed lead statements; while it is an immortal classic, some of the air of mystery and intrigue that this song usually generates are missing from the simplified rhythm structure. On “It Had to Be You,” Taravella plays a lead guitar duet in the channels, weaving lines around one another for a pleasing effect. Taking his music for a bit of a Latin detour, his “Vaya con Dios” again uses the interplay of the dubbed statements and answers; while one channel is bright, the other has more squonk from tuning the tone nob down, the almost overdriven notes sound the like the granddaddy of Eric Clapton’s “woman tone.” Paul helped develop the guitar’s original sound, and it is amazingly expressive in the right hands.

Another standard from Paul’s repertoire is “Tennessee Waltz,” and Taravella plays it close to the vest, maybe missing a chance for some high-speed country influenced fills. It is almost sedate while sticking to the essential melody. “The World is Waiting for the Sunrise” is punctuated by some ear-catching descending scales that add spice, but for the most part it is again Taravella on dueling overdubs. For the closing track, it is “Brazil.” Here, the rhythm track generates extra juice as the two tracked guitars lines do some exploring over the top of one of the all-time cool melody lines, a good choice here for the longest track on the program.

For listeners who remember and enjoy Les Paul’s instrumental work, this is both an informative and fun listen.