Concert Review - Les Paul and his Quartet
 Iridium Jazz Club New York - 27th November 2004

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Living legends are hard to come by these days. So when we heard that such a legendary musician as Les Paul was performing, whilst we were visiting the city that never sleeps, we certainly could not afford to miss the opportunity.

About The Artist.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Les Paul also known as the 'Wizard of Waukesha', is world renown as a guitarist, inventor and recording artist. He is credited with one of the first prototype solid bodied electric guitars known as “The Log” and also in 1952 introduced the first eight-track tape recorder, which he designed, and was marketed by Ampex.

Most famously however, in that same year of 1952 he lent his name to what is now known as the Gibson Les Paul. Many famous musicians have since played the Gibson Les Paul, including Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Slash, Joe Perry and many countless others.

In the following years, Les Paul has remained in the music scene, recording a Grammy-winning album of instrumental duets with Chet Atkins, “Chester and Lester” in 1977, and performing at New York jazz clubs, which is where this review takes place.

The Concert

Text Box:  The venue for our evening was the Iridium Club, which is located in the heart of Broadway near Times Square. The Iridium is a small Jazz Club, which hosts Les’s weekly shows as well as other Jazz evenings.

The show was to start at 22.00hrs and we arrived at around 21.30hrs.  We already found some people queuing at the door, many with guitars by their side, the same as myself. Earlier in the day we had actually been browsing the music stores on 48th Avenue and I had actually purchased a guitar to take with me to the concert.

It was of course a Les Paul, the faded double-cut model in TV Yellow as I was told that in the second seating of his show, Les Paul would stay behind and sign autographs.

Shortly after this, and amidst conversation of a musical nature, between the people in the queue, the guests from the first seating started to depart, all off them looking like they had enjoyed the show.

We were then taken down to the club, which was in the basement, and seated very near to the stage.

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As we also experienced at a B.B King concert earlier this year the band started playing first and then Les Paul walked in to a thunderous applause by the crowd who were thrilled to see their guitar hero.

Les who is now 88 years old was forever smiling and in a cheery mood. He made many jokes between the members of the band and the audience in between songs and at one point the band even stopped at his signal and posed for the cameras amidst a tune!

As for the music it was simply amazing, his band consists of the following musicians.

¯    Lead Guitar: Les Paul

¯    Rhythm Guitar: Lou Pallo

¯    Acoustic Guitar: Frank Vignola

¯    Double Bass: Nicki Parrott

¯    Piano: John Colianni

Les Paul and his quartet played many well-known tunes from his long recording career which included, “How High the Moon”, “ Bye Bye Blues”, “Brazil” and many others. A number of songs were played in their instrumental versions whilst others were sung.

The band was tight and very impressive musically with a special mention for Frank Vignola’s guitar work reminiscent in style to that of Django Reinhardt. Nicki Parrot and John Colianni also had their solo spots where they showed their impressive talent on their respective instruments.

A young performer was also invited on to the stage to play. he played a couple of tunes very well, to the amazement of the audience, and it was quite amusing when Les popped a joke about his Cyber-Twin modelling amplifier and how it was impossible to find a good sound within the 300 presets!

Another interesting anecdote was one of a “lost chord” Les was missing from a song as a youngster and how his father burned his guitar so he would not have it.

It was certainly interesting to hear all these stories from his past.

Gear

As one would expect Les Paul was playing his signature guitar, a Les Paul Recording that was also fitted with a Bigsby Vibrato. The “Recording” model is filled with switches and knobs that alter the tone and quite seems to suit Les Paul as the inventor and recording enthusiast he also is.

Les Paul Recording.
Lou Pallo & Les Paul Custom
Frank Vignola on acoustic

Lou Pallo played a Black Les Paul Custom, whilst Frank Vignola had a custom jazz style acoustic.

After the Show

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After the performance finished, as it was announced that Les Paul would meet anyone that so wished, we form a line and one by one he took his time to talk to everyone and sign CDs, T-shirts, and even guitars. I asked him about his sound and he mentioned that as in the old days he likes to plug in straight to the board with no equalisation and minimal effects. He also commented that he liked my guitar and that it came with the “old” (p90) pickups. He also signed a t-shirt which he dedicated to my wife.


Summary

A truly memorable event. The music was great, the band was incredible and most of all, the artist took the time to communicate and even further meet his audience.

By Ernest H Slade
www.gear-review.co.uk