A departure from the type of boring, innocuous elevator Muzak Earl Klugh is best known for, Earl Klugh Trio, Vol. 1 gives listeners a rare chance to hear the guitarist playing straight-ahead jazz. Some bebop musicians contend that playing dull background music year after year means you can kiss your bebop chops goodbye, but there's no evidence of that on this rewarding CD. With Klugh sticking to acoustic guitar and employing Ralph Armstrong on upright bass and Gene Dunlap on drums, someone who is best known for recording schlock offers tasteful and lyrical interpretations of such well known standards as "I'll Remember April," "Night and Day" and "One Note Samba." Klugh also excels on "Lonely Girl" (a beautiful but underexposed Neal Hefti piece) and pleasantly surprises by demonstrating that the theme from the '60s sitcom Bewitched and the Aretha Franklin hit "I Say a Little Prayer" (written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David) can work in an acoustic bebop setting. Undeniably, this is the best album Klugh ever recorded -- it's too bad it was a departure from his norm instead of a primary direction.