As the inventor of the solid-body electric guitar and multi-track recording, Les Paul’s role in shaping the sound of modern music cannot be overstated. From his string of hit records with Bing Crosby and Mary Ford in the 1940s and 1950s and his innovative studio in Hollywood of the same era to the greatest rock guitarists using his signature Les Paul Model Guitar and his Grammy-winning recording with Chet Atkins in 1976, Les Paul’s stamp is evident over the changing sound of popular music through the decades. Someone so influential might retire and bask in the glory of such monumental accomplishments at the age of 87 but not Les. He can be found playing two gigs every Monday night at the elegant Iridium Jazz Club.
Whatever he has lost in physical dexterity he more than makes up for with a knack for hitting the perfect note. Blue Skies showcased his mastery of harmonics, pull-offs and beautiful chords in the upper register. A sweet Hawaiian sound and bluesy feel characterized his peerless solo on Someone To Watch Over Me.
The Les Paul Quartet, featuring three guitars and a bass, create a wonderful, unique sound. Frank Vignola and Lou Pallo are the guitarists that surround Les. Lou entertains the audience with his voice. Frank dazzles them with blazing guitar work, showcasing his Django-style technique. Nikki Parrot plays the bass with great command.
The variety of admiring musicians who show up for a chance to sit in with the legend make Les Paul shows an eclectic pot of different styles. Bluesman Jon Paris was the first guest. Playing harmonica and singing, he led the group through several blues classics, including Train Kept a Rollin’ and Got My Mojo Workin’. The pianist John Tennyson was featured cascading over the keys on a fast-tempo version of All Blues. Tenor phonem James Carter subsequently took the stage. A dissonant, attention-grabbing introduction was followed by soaring, crowd-pleasing saxophone work. To round out an impressive array of guests, bassist John Burr and violin virtuoso Mark O’Conner took the show in yet another direction.
The evening ended as it began, with Les and his quartet interpreting standards, including Ain’t Misbehavin’, How High the Moon and Sweet Georgia Brown. The latter was a highlight of the evening as Les demonstrated his beautiful artistry, capping off a wonderful set of music.