The quality of recordings of music for the 1930s-era acoustic archtop guitar has taken a sudden leap forward with the appearance of Jonathan Stout’s “Pick It And Play.” Not only is this a beautifully played album by one of the few leaders in the field, but it is also beautifully recorded too. That quality is carried over to the stylistically-appropriate artwork:
1. Pickin’ for Charlie – Jonathan Stout, 2018
2. Stompin’ at the Savoy – Goodman/Sampson/Webb, 1936
3. Moonglow – Hudson/DeLange/Mills, 1934
4. Cheek to Cheek – Irving Berlin, 1935
5. Apartment G – Allan Reuss, 1938
6. It’s Only a Paper Moon – Harold Arlen, 1933
7. Sunday – Miller/Styne/Cohn/Kreuger, 1926
8. Charlie’s Lullabye – Jonathan Stout, 2018
9. Georgia on My Mind – Hoagy Carmichael, 1930
10. Itching Fingers – Roy Smeck, 1928
11. Ain’t Misbehavin’ – Waller/Brooks/Razaf, 1929
12. Pet Shop – Allan Reuss, 1938
13. Pick It and Play It – Frank Victor, 1936
14. Somebody Loves Me – George Gershwin, 1934
15. Over the Rainbow – Harold Arlen, 1938
Three guitars were used: Waterloo WL-14L (a flat top) on “Itching Fingers”, the remainder evenly split between a 1932 L-5 and 1939 L-5. It’s fun to try to figure out which guitar played which track, though perhaps that might have been pointed out in the liner notes?
To the playing…
I don’t know of anyone today who has mastered the Alan Reuss-style of chord soloing better than Jonathan Stout. What we have here is a complete and convincing restoration of the wonderfully rhythmical and lyrical style that Reuss was renowned for. In case you don’t know what I am referring to, watch the following video, where Jonathan performs an Alan Reuss original, which is featured on this album:
Stout is equally at home with the influential earlier work of the “Wizard of the Strings,” Roy Smeck [you can hear my attempt at it – and download the score – here: https://archtopguitar.net/2018/03/14/roy-smeck-wizard-of-the-strings/ ]
It is clear that Jonathan has made a deep study of the styles and techniques of such guitar greats as Eddie Lang, (early-period) George Van Eps, Dick McDonough, Carl Kress, Frank Victor and others. But this is no lifeless academic exercise, as will become very clear after hearing just a few notes of Stout’s playing – the music is very much alive and kicking. Plus there are two self-penned compositions by Stout, both named after his son: Pickin’ For Charlie, and Charlie’s Lullabye. Some of the tracks are arrangements by Stout, while others are culled from 1920s and 30s sheet-music folios.
It’s important to point out that there are no overdubs here, and no backing band. This is as minimal and as intimate as it gets: one guy and a guitar, some great compositions and arrangements, and a whole lot of classic archtop guitar playing. Naturally I highly recommend this recording, and encourage you to buy the CD https://jonathanstout.bandcamp.com/merch , or download it right now from Bandcamp: https://jonathanstout.bandcamp.com/releases
Standout tracks for me are Ain’t Misbehavin’, Stompin’ At The Savoy, Somebody Loves Me, and It’s Only A Paper Moon, but all tracks are wonderful.
Jonathan Stout has given us all something to cheer: a solo acoustic archtop guitar album, beautifully recorded with ribbon microphones, played on great guitars and their associated repertoire, and all performed with an audible smile! Jonathan Stout clearly loves playing guitar, loves this music and these instruments, and – thankfully for us – is only too willing to share his discoveries. I suggest you sally forth and get yourself a copy!