This is, at first glance, an unusual post for this site because it is not a Soundie … but read on, with the hope that my rationale will be clear.
In the mid-1940s Les Paul was very much a presence on the jazz scene. He appeared on the Jazz at the Philharmonic stage where he performed with Nat “King” Cole, Roy Eldridge, Illinois Jacquet and others. Over the years he recorded and broadcast with Art Tatum, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Joe Venuti, Barney Kessel and Hank Jones. Fast company, indeed.
Like many jazzmen who were blessed with great technique, Les Paul had certain set pieces that he would perform regularly, non-improvised arrangements that would spotlight his technical prowess. One of those set pieces was based on a piano composition by Florian Hermann; with lyrics it became known as “Ochi Chernye” … and then here in America as “Dark Eyes.”
The Les Paul Trio made a series of Soundies in December 1943, with Paul, Joe Rann (piano) and Bob Meyer (string bass) joined by singers Carolyn Grey and Gai Moran, and comedian Sammy Wolfe, one of Ted Healy’s “stooges” in the 1930s. In “Dark Eyes” Wolfe, dressed as a Russian, has little to do, and is somewhat of a distraction. So today we’ll share an excerpt from a Universal short produced the day after the Soundies recordings were made, with Paul playing the identical solo in both. This allows us to enjoy Paul’s mastery unfettered, and to return to his work in a another bona fide Soundie.