Les Brown: Just a Gigolo


Just a Gigolo


Les Brown (leader)


Best of the Big Bands: Les Brown and his Great Vocalists (Columbia-Legacy CK 66373)

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Les Brown (leader),

Wes Hensel, Frank Beach, Bob Fowler, Bob Higgins, Conrad Gozzo (trumpets), Ray Sims, Ray Klein, Ralph Pfeffner (trombones) Clyde ‘Stumpy’ Brown (trombone/vocal), Jack Tucker (alto sax), Abe Most (alto sax, clarinet), Dave Pell, Eddie Scherr (tenor saxes), Butch Stone (baritone sax), Tony Rizzi (guitar), Geoff Clarkson (piano), Ray Leatherwood (bass), Roy Harte (drums)


Composed by Julius Brammer, Irving Caesar and Leonello Casucci. Arranged by Skip Martin


Recorded: Los Angeles, April 14, 1949


Rating: 87/100 (learn more)

One of the great things about the study of an art form is that, in many cases, the cream finally rises to the top. For many years, it was easy to take the Les Brown band for granted; it played wherever Bob Hope turned up, whether on television or Viet Nam. It played local west coast gigs if it appeared live, and made a couple of albums a year through the sixties. But when Hope left the business and Brown's many recordings became available on CD, many of us took a long look and listen to what his band accomplished. He was known for introducing Doris Day, but he had many other vocalists who were excellent. His was a dance band first, but he always had top notch soloists, and he recorded high-powered jazz written by excellent arrangers. Added to that was the fact that he was a fine arranger himself, and never stopped writing for the band.

It would be interesting to know how he came to have a new version of "Just a Gigolo" in his book. This song first attained popularity in the United States back in 1931 and would become legendary as part of Louis Prima's Las Vegas act paired with "I Ain't Got Nobody." But in the hands of the Band of Renown, it starts with a piano intro, a statement of the melody in two and then four-beat, a bebop-laced vocal by novelty singer Stumpy Brown, a solo by Abe Most, an eight bar transition drenched in bop (Gozzo was a ringer in the trumpet section for this recording, and he is amazing as usual), and then a solo statement by bopper Pell. The band then takes over for a chorus, and we are reminded of the brilliance of arranger Skip Martin in this exciting and roaring transfiguration of a simple tune swinging mightily as if the band's life depended on its performance (one should also listen to Clarkson's solo; he is a highly underrated musician). The music ends with a highly dissonant chord that still seems perfect given what happened during the previous three minutes.

In the scheme of things, this is a relatively minor record, but if the minor performances are this good, many of the major recordings are stunning, and it makes perfect sense when modern big band historians now call Les Brown's ensemble one of the finest big bands of all time.

Reviewer: Jeff Sultanof

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  • 1 Ron Cannatella // Apr 15, 2009 at 01:18 PM
    Here's some background information on the song Just a Gigolo: The song was written in 1929 by Leonello Casucci, Irving Caesar, Spencer Williams, Roger Graham, and J. Brammer. Just a Gigolo was recorded in 1931 most notably by Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, and bandleader Ted Lewis. Ted's version was a #1 hit in 1931. Louis Prima put Just a Gigolo together as a medley for the very first time with the song I Ain’t Got Nobody for release as a V-Disc in 1945. His first commercial recording of Just a Gigolo by itself was recorded in 1946 and issued on the Majestic label as a single. Louis’ most famous and celebrated recording of the Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody medley was recorded in 1956 for Capitol Records. Louis would revisit Gigolo again in 1966 for Hanna Barbera and his own Prima Label. In 1973, Louis recorded his final version of Just a Gigolo as the title song for his 1973 Prima Label album of the same name. These classic albums are available on digitally remastered compact discs exclusively at www.LouisPrima.com along with several other exciting Prima Label titles! After Louis Prima’s death in 1978, Italian singer Jimmy Roselli released his version of Just a Gigolo as a medley with Vesti La Giubba from Pagliacci! Marlene Dietrich revived Just a Gigolo for the 1979 film of the same name starring David Bowie, Kim Novak and Kurt Jurgens. Marlene’s recording was released as a 45rpm single to promote the film.She was 78 years old at the time, and this became her last recording and film appearance. David Lee Roth recorded a note-for note cover of Louis Prima’s 1956 Capitol version of Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody in 1985. The recording reached #12 on the Top 40 charts and brought Louis Prima’s style to the MTV generation! Singer Lou Bega (of Mambo Number 5 fame) recorded a dance version of Just a Gigolo/ I Ain’t Got Nobody in 2001 borrowing Louis Prima’s legendary phrasing. Ron Cannatella The Louis Prima Archives www.LouisPrima.com