death in August of
2009 marked not
only the passing of
a legend but the end
of one of the world’s
gigs. Paul played
regular Monday nights in Manhattan for over a quarter century,
the last 13 years at the Iridium Jazz Club. Iridium owner Ron
Sturm is dedicated to continuing Les’ legacy by making his
venue more guitarcentric. “At first we were honoring Les by
having well-known guitarists play with the Les Paul Trio [bassist
Nicki Parrot, guitarist Lou Pallo, and pianist John Colliani]—
they are adept at handling anybody,” says Sturm.
Pallo, Paul’s right hand man for 26 years, confirms that he
feels equally at home accompanying Larry Carlton or Zakk
Wylde. “We just fit right in with whatever they play. If they
give us charts we will read them. If not, we learn the tunes.
With Zakk we did some Jimi Hendrix,” he says.
Since Jeff Beck officially christened the room’s new direction
on June 8 and 9, 2010, John Scofield, Albert Lee, and
Duke Robillard have graced the stage. On the night we attended,
the Trio’s set was followed by a jam featuring Jimmy Herring,
Colliani, drummer Lenny White, and bassist Neil Jason.
“I grew up with his guitars but I only found out later who
Les Paul really was,” Herring explains. “He invented all these
things we take for granted—like overdubbing. I saw him on
television with the Les Paulverizer [a live overdubbing device]
and it just blew me away.”
Plugging his humbucker-equipped Stratocaster into an Ibanez
Tube Screamer, Fuchs head, and Mesa/Boogie bottom, Herring
then blew away the Iridium audience with a vocal tone and phrasing
mixes blues and Middle
many more guitar
goodies in the future. “Robby Krieger
and Steve Morse will be playing with
their own bands on weekends and then
joining the trio on Monday,” he says.
The Les Paul Foundation receives 20 percent of the Monday receipts.
The organization creates study grants in electronic, mechanical, and
aural areas of music, and funds medical research related to hearing
impairment. It also catalogues Paul’s instruments, inventions, and memorabilia,
creating exhibits for museums, schools, and other institutions.
It often seemed that Les would live forever, and even now his loveable,
indomitable spirit hovers over the club. “It’s like we are channeling
Les Paul here,” Sturm says. “On the nights that it’s really good I feel
Les beaming down on us. And on the nights when it’s less than great
I feel like he would really love to kick my ass.”
Jimmy Herring (right) gets into it with longtime Les sideman Lou Pallo.