Iridium Jazz Club, October 13, 2003:
My musician neighbor, Al DiGiacomo, extends an invitation to see Les Paul at the Iridium Jazz Club on Monday night October 13th, for the late show. Al is doing a T.V. segment for the Oakland Communication Commission, a musical tribute to Les Paul. Both Al and I have formed a nice friendship from working at the Commission and playing music together. I further extend this invitation to another well-respected musician friend, Tony Yadouga. Al is good friends with guitarist extraordinaire Lou Pallo, who is in Les Paul’s band. Al plans to shoot video before the show, enjoy the gig, and then we will all meet Les and have our guitars signed by this great American musical icon.
We all meet and drive in together. It is a balmy fall evening in Manhattan. We arrive at the club in plenty of time and wait out front for the second show to start. We are all in excellent moods for tonight’s special event. Al shoots video, I take stills, and Tony utilizes his superior networking abilities to make friends with the staff. Al has several of his close friends meet us at the club and we all wait together. Tony's networking gets him backstage to take this very intimate photo of Les Paul relaxing between shows.
At 10:25 P.M. we all go into the club together and secure a nice booth in the front, on the far side of the room. Soon Lou Pallo and bassist, Nicki Parrott, do their warm-ups. At 10:29 P.M. Les Paul, the ‘wizard of Waukesha’, takes the stage and dives right into the first number, “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams (And Dream Your Troubles Away).” Les plays slow and sincere. His lead guitar is very caressing, melodic and smooth. Lou Pallo comps the chord melody, extremely clean and assured.
The next composition, “East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon),” features excellent standup bass by Nicki Parrott that is full and strong, complemented by the very tasteful acoustic guitar of Frank Vignola. The band is rounded out with the superior piano playing of John Colianni.
“I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” is next with Frank leading the sweet melody on his acoustic guitar. Lou Pallo sings lead on a poignant version of “Georgia,” while playing the chord melody with precision and ease. Les takes a strong but subtle lead guitar break. The next tune, “Brazil,” is very happy and upbeat. Nicki’s bass is hot and Frank takes a beautiful acoustic guitar lead, which is choice and melodic.
“Begin The Begine” is driven by Lou’s slick and smooth chord melodies. The execution is immaculate and Nicki’s bass is jumpin’. The arrangement includes a cut time change to straight 4/4-tempo, and then returns to a rumba-like groove. The band rolls along, swinging lively and bright, and is filled in with the ‘fat’ rhythm section.
Nicki Parrott leads the band on a blues number, “Don’t You Mess With Me.” She sings forcefully and stylishly: “I’m an evil girl, don’t you bother me.” Her performance is captivating and provocative, tantalizing and suggestive. Her vocal delivery is sexy, sultry and extremely sensual. Her bass solo is articulate and melodically explosive.
“Love Is Evil” is a Latin tempo arrangement, with Les Paul on excellent two-note melodic lead, showcasing his superior bend notes. “Sunny Side Of The Street” is slow and deliberate. Lou’s chord melodies are sleek, sweet and strong. Les showcases his incredible playing style on the lead, maximizing each note. At times, he uses his thumb on the fretboard. The band transitions seamlessly into, “Stardust.” The musical change between songs is unnoticeable and perfect.
Muriel Anderson comes on stage to perform a feature spot. Muriel is from Nashville and her excellent first tune is, “Hubcap Sugar Daddy.” Muriel plays solo acoustic guitar, employing excellent finger style in a country rockabilly style, with nice arpeggios. The song is lively and spirited. The entire band stops and just watches her play. The next tune from Muriel is the Carpenters’, “Close To You,” in the key of D. This instrumental rendition is very soothing, sincere and distinctive. She plays an excellent lead guitar solo featuring creative melodic development. The audience swoons at her innovative and instinctive interpretation of this Carpenters’ classic.
Monty Alexander comes on stage to play, “Happy Trails,” and yodels, “oh-de-lay-e-hoo.” Monty breaks into a mean boogie-woogie version of, “Sweet Georgia Brown.” Monty plays creative dissonance with a purposefully erratic rhythmic tempo. The band follows Monty’s hectic and furious playing. Monty plays a double time rhythmic piano lead over the frenzied tempo. Lou is comping chords fast and furious, with complete ease. Nicki’s bass is spearheading the musical charge. Monty plays a ballad, “Sweet Lorraine.” His piano is grand and large, with elegant flourishes and glissandos, which are magnifique! His piano solo has elegant and timely crescendos and is exquisitely grandiose. Monty’s vocal delivery is impressive, commanding and very stylish. The band is ‘in the pocket’ as Nicki’s bass emphasizes the melody so proud and strong.
Les Paul reminisces fondly about his dear friend Chet Atkins. His rendition of, “How High The Moon,” is knock-me-over impressive. “Over The Rainbow” is performed slow and sincere. Les plays the solo tremendously, as he milks each delicious note of the lead melody. This is an amazing version of the Judy Garland classic. “Sweet Georgia Brown” is performed in a staggered shuffle tempo. The band jells into a gloriously colorful blend of harmonic pastels, with a virtuoso piano solo by John Colianni.
Les Paul is a genius American musical icon, who continues to amaze the sold-out audiences at The Iridium every Monday, for two shows nightly. The fact that he is eighty eight is hardly even noticeable except when Les himself jokes about it! Les Paul is amazing and not to be missed. The musicians he surrounds himself with are all exceptional, and the parade of celebrity musical guests that visit him are always something to behold.
Al, Tony and I wait patiently after the second show for Les Paul. We are all well rewarded as Les meets, chats freely, and signs each of our guitars. He enthusiastically poses for many photos.
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