Les Paul's 90th Birthday Salute

With John Colliani, Piano; Lou Pallo, Guitar; Nicky Parrott, Bass

 

Carnegie Hall, June 19, 2005:

 

       Kathy and I drive into Manhattan for a very special JVC Jazz Festival event. Tonight we celebrate Les Paul’s 90th Birthday. Rich and Laura Lynch join us. Rich is Kathy’s brother. They are reviewing tonight’s concert for their music portal, kweevak.com. We go into Carnegie Hall at 7:00 P.M. The crowd in the foyer of Carnegie Hall is overflowing. We go to our seats at 7:30 P.M. We have seats A111 and A112 in the front row. I soon meet my friend Ray Cameron, who’s an usher here at Carnegie. We have a very cordial conversation and he wants me to send him copies of my last few reviews from the JVC Jazz Festival events, here at Carnegie. I search up in the balcony to find Rich and Laura in the Dress Circle. The hall is quickly filling up to capacity and the mood is electric. Everyone is flashing their cameras. The usher is telling everyone, “no photography.”     

       At 8:03 P.M., Bob Buckner from Q104 rock radio leads the introduction and brief historical movie background. The movie is informative and gives an apropos historical reference to how we have arrived at this special celebration of America’s genius icon, Les Paul.

       The show begins at 8:11 P.M. The first musical guest is Steve Miller. Steve Miller has a sunburst Les Paul guitar and he plays, “Fly Like An Eagle.” He uses digital effects prominently and extremely well. The musical sound is full, strong and hot from the very beginning. The arrangement modulates through several keys and his guitar solo features heavy special effects. The “tick, tock, tick” passage is eerie and mysterious. The keyboardist ‘raps’ the lyrics for an appropriate update to the rock classic. The ‘second’ guitar solo is amazing as it features octaves complementing the overcharged scale runs. Both guitarists then embellish the melody quite effectively.

    

Steve Miller

    

Photos: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       The next musical group is Kenny Wayne Shepherd. The musical style is the blues and Kenny is hot on lead guitar. The lead vocalist is rough, raspy and robust. Kenny is very emotional and displays superior chops on his axe. He is yelling and the crowd is going wild! Kenny’s blues leads are on fire on the song, “Shame On Me.” The vocals are strong and the band is simmering.

    

Kenny Wayne Shepherd

    

Photos: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       The next guitarist to pay tribute to Les Paul is Steve Lukather. He does an amazing rendition of the Jimi Hendrix composition, “Little Wing.” Steve has a sunburst Les Paul guitar that he executes an incredible intro to the song. He plays strong musical accompaniment to his tremendous vocal delivery. His lead melody is exquisite and his fiery leads are amazing to behold. This is an amazing rendition of one of my favorite Hendrix tunes. The trio is excellent and displays great dynamic control.

    

Steve Lukather

    

Photos: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Stanley Jordan is next. He is in sharp musical contrast, with his silky touch and melodic finesse style. He touches the guitar like a piano. He does not pick the strings whatsoever. He performs creative melodic development. There is really no one like him at all. His melodic chord passages are totally fluid and spontaneous. He alludes to a Baroque classical style. His musical style is feather-light, whimsical, soft and caressing.

    

Stanley Jordan

    

Photos: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Edgar Winter saunters on stage next and the crowd goes wild! Edgar has two compositions on the new Les Paul CD. He sits at the grand piano to play, “Dying To Live.” He starts with magnificent glissandos and crescendos and grandiose melodic introduction. Edgar plays solo piano and vocal. The musical mood is gospel. This is an early Edgar Winter composition. He still has great vibrato vocal control and strength. Edgar retains ample muscle in his note mastery and delivery. He sings the refrain, “… dying to live if I am just living to die.” The piano is full and strong. His vocal delivery has not lost anything at all. Edgar’s high vocal register is still powerful. His falsetto yell and vibrato control are overpowering. He is allowed a second song with the help of Kenny Wayne Shepherd. The composition has a hot shuffle intro in steady 4/4 time. The arrangement changes to a staggered rhythmic pulse and an incredible version of, “Rock & Roll Hootchie Coo.” Edgar screams “lawdy mama spread the news.” The musical presentation has great dynamics from loud and ballsy to soft and discreet. There is an answer/response passage of guitar and ‘skat’ falsetto vocal. The band is hot. Edgar’s high falsetto is still amazing.

    

Edgar Winter and Kenny Wayne Shepherd

    

Photos: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Joe Satriani is next and he plays a tune called, “Satch Boogie.” He is stupendous on the guitar. The intro is hot and has a sharp and powerful tone. Wow, we are all going OUT! This boogie is smokin’. Joe Satriani flawlessly executes finger hammering and his solo is out of this world. Joe Satriani is incredible!

    

Joe Satriani

    

Photos: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Neal Schon steps onto the Carnegie stage to play the blues. A vibrant female vocalist, Lillis White, joins him. Lillis White sings, “I wanna know ya baby… get into my bed.” She is hot and Neal Schon is smokin’. They engage an answer/response form, from vocals to guitar. Yes! Lillis sings, “talk to me sweet.” Neal executes tremendous dynamics from wild to subdued, on this amazing blues tune. Lillis White is incredible on vocals.

       Tommy Emanuel takes the stage with an acoustic guitar that has seen many, many gigs. Tommy hails from Australia and will play a song for Les Paul that he wrote in Africa, “Bombasa.” The composition has a very soothing melody with outstanding changes. The music is both embracing and caresses us thoroughly. The chord melody is enchanting and entices you to tap your feet and smile. Tommy has excellent execution and intriguing melodic development. The music makes you feel good all over. Tommy Emanuel strikes rhythms on the body of his acoustic guitar. He continues into a full-fledged percussion solo that is excellent, on the body of his guitar. Now I can see where his axe gets all the wear-and-tear. He utilizes a brush with the right hand and the palm and fingers of his left hand on the pick guard of his guitar. He even uses the brush on the microphone. He executes double-time and gets a very sharp and succinct tone to the percussive notes. The audience claps along with this incredible display of musical charisma. The solo becomes very conga-like as he continues to wail on the body of his guitar. This is an amazing solo and the crowd stands up and cheers, as Tommy Emanuel finishes up this incredible musical display.

       Peter Frampton comes out next to pay respect to Les Paul, on his 90th Birthday Salute. He plays a black, Peter Frampton Signature model, Les Paul guitar. His intro is soothing and then becomes a righteous 4/4 marching tempo. Peter Frampton sings, “So Into You,” which gains strength to become hot and heavy and rather staccato. He executes fiery leads and his vocals are very strong. His tone is excellent. He plays harmonizing guitar riffs with Steve Lukather. Frampton and the band are hot. Peter Frampton is one of just a few musicians who is allowed a second song. He comments that he was eight years old when he first heard Les Paul and Mary Ford. The second song is a shuffle tempo. His leads are strong. Wow, Frampton is alive! He solos incredibly through interesting melodic changes. The melody is smooth and the changes are very imaginative. Frampton is smokin’.

    

Peter Frampton

    

Photos: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

 

       INTERMISSION:

 

       Pat Martino starts the second set. He plays an amazing version of “Sunny.” He plays the melody with octaves and easily compliments this with very fluid leads throughout the melodic changes. Pat Martino executes effortless double-time leads. He is lively and creative. He executes emotional crescendos and technique that displays his musical experience, grace and incredible skill at the guitar. He returns back to the lead melody with octaves. This excellent version of the musical standard is strong and tasteful.

       The president of Gibson Guitars, Henry Jusciewicz, presents Les Paul with an out-of-this-world custom-made Les Paul guitar. Les is over whelmed at this incredible gift from Gibson Guitars.

    

Lou Pallo, Les Paul and Henry Jusciewicz

    

Photos: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Les Paul, Lou Pallo, Nicky Parrott and John Colliani now take the stage to play for the enthusiastic Carnegie Hall audience. Les kicks into an up-tempo musical standard. Lou Pallo plays chord melodies with the assured confidence that only his years of accomplished guitar playing can bring to the musical dinner table. Nicky plays strong and inventive standup bass. She is in a gorgeous off-the-shoulder blue dress. The second arrangement is slow and caressing. Lou executes a tremendous chord melody quite effortlessly. Nicky’s bass walks strong and proud. Lou smiles down on Kathy and I, as Nicky is utterly radiant. The quartet cleverly uses rests for space and musical emphasis. The presentation is tight and sassy, as they utilize stops for supportive dynamic effect. John Colliani, on piano, and Les play a tasteful and captivating unison harmonic lead melody for musical creativity and effect.

    

Lou Pallo

    

Photos: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       The next song, “Blue Skies,” is very succinct and played in a tight 4/4 marching tempo. They break into an intriguing double-time passage as Lou dazzles us with the ease of his chord changes. Nicky walks double-time, as the ensemble is extremely together. Les Paul is featured on the incredible ballad, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” Les plays lead guitar that is super tasteful and truly sincere. Nicky smiles as she plays with control and grace. Kathy cries. The quartet plays elegantly, with restraint and charm. Les Paul is amazing on lead guitar. He can still play so very, very well at 90 years old! His execution is sublime. His creative use of the whammy bar and melodic control is something to behold. Lou Pallo plays staccato note picking in a rhythmic counterpoint style, as Nicky plays her bass with a bow. Tremendous!

    

Les Paul

    

Photos: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Bucky Pizzarelli and his son Martin join Les Paul next. You can easily see that Bucky and Les are long time friends. Les jokes about a song title, “I’d Like To Tell Ya That I Love Ya, But Your Sitting On My Face.” Bucky plays a 7 string Benedetto arch-top guitar. Martin Pizzarelli accompanies delightfully on the standup bass. Bucky plays a long elegant melodic introduction. Then Les and Bucky play a guitar duet. Lou comps confidently as the standup bass marches stoically. Les Paul jokingly pulls out a handkerchief to cry. Bucky executes fluid guitar leads as Les plays harmonies. The playing becomes loosey-goosey from Bucky and soon changes to double-time rhythmic octaves. Les and Bucky play super tastefully and the execution is near perfection. Lou comps chord melodies to complement and combine into an incredible musical collage of color and tone.

       Madeline Peyroux joins Les on stage to sing, “It’s Been A Long Long Time.” Her delivery is slow and sultry. Lou comps the melody confidently, as Les plays the lead accompaniment. Les Paul whistles and hams it up quite a bit. After Madeline finishes, Les comments that he and Bing Crosby had a hit recording with the song and it went to number one in two weeks. He quipped that he received only two hundred dollars for his work.

       Derek Trucks takes the stage to honor Les Paul. He plays a unique version of, “Good Night Irene,” on the electric slide guitar. The arrangement is in the key of C, and is emphatically slow and sincere. Lou Pallo comps ‘down’ on the ¾ meter very delicately. The slide guitar execution is gracious, stately and respectful. The band backs up this musical presentation very gingerly, as the slide playing is fantastic. This is a song standard that is really gassed up good.

       Jose Feliciano comes on the stage. The first song he plays is, “How High The Moon.” The arrangement starts slowly and evolves to a boogie-woogie tempo. The catchy up-tempo change is smooth and slick. Jose Feliciano plays lead guitar in his inimitable style. John Colliani plays a fantastic piano lead feature. John executes a double-time lead on the piano that is incredible. Nicky Parrott takes a feature bass solo that is extremely creative. Les stops the song to tell Nicky to “step to the front, so they can see you.”

    

Jose Feliciano, Nicky Parrott and Les Paul

    

Photos: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Jose presents a musical gift to Les Paul. It is a composition that musically describes a battle between the Spanish and British. The title is, “Bilbao.” Jose plays excellent solo guitar. This unique and creative musical presentation clearly depicts a prelude, then battle, and aftermath by the melodic and rhythmic presentation that Jose plays very spontaneously. Jose executes great harmonies and then back to a tasteful melodic lead feature. This is a gorgeous composition from Jose to Les Paul. Jose solos and everyone is captivated and focused on the galloping guitar technique (representing the charging horses) and percussive stroking on his guitar. This is completely extraordinary and very unusually creative. This is a vividly imaginative story in a musical presentation!

    

Jose Feliciano, Nicky Parrott and Les Paul

    

Photos: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Steve Miller comes back for one last song, “Nature Boy,” in a solo voice. Steve Miller on solo lead vocal is excellent. His interpretation and delivery are spell binding. His presentation is enchanting and gracious. He says a big “Happy Birthday” to Les at the end of his performance.

    

Ensemble Jam

    

Photos: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       Jon Paris leads the final ensemble jam. This is one huge guitar jam. The song is, “Let The Good Times Roll.” The ensemble is hot! Lillis White is featured on vocals for the end of this segment, and she is outstanding.

    

Ensemble Jam

    

Photos: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

    

Lillis White

    

Photos: ©A.J. Alfaro. All rights reserved.

       This historical musical tribute to Les Paul, on his 90th birthday, is an incredibly amazing performance to be heralded for all time. Kathy and I are so very privileged and respectful of the performances we have witnessed here tonight. Les Paul is truly a genius of our time. He has influenced our music and American culture in a way very few individuals will ever be able to accomplish. This show has left us quite speechless.

       Thank you Les Paul, from the bottom of our hearts and from ALL America!


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A.J. Alfaro

and.the.beat.goes.on@worldnet.att.net