(recently published in JazzTimes; direct link)
Several generations of guitarists have been inspired by the playing—and electric guitar and recording inventions—of the late Les Paul. He never really retired, instead spending his golden years playing Monday nights at the Iridium in Manhattan and extending sit-ins to everyone from rising jazzers to pop superstars.
A roomful of those notables, including godson Steve Miller, pay tribute to the master on Thank You Les, the latest from Lou Pallo, longtime guitarist in Paul’s trio. (It arrives on the heels of A Jazz Salute to Les: Live at the Iridium, another star-studded homage credited to the Les Paul Trio & Friends.) Miller sings and swings on “Mr. Day/Tell Me What’s the Reason,” and offers mellow vocals on “Nature Boy,” which opens up for Pallo’s similarly restrained solo.
Other big-name rock ’n’ rollers show up, too, with Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top dialing in a reverb-heavy, slightly overdriven tone on “September Song”; Keith Richards trading gruff vocals with Pallo on a fun and chunky “It’s Been a Long, Long Time”; and Slash (Guns N’ Roses) injecting scorching licks into Paul’s slow-grooving “Deep in the Blues.”
Guitarists closer to Pallo’s own sensibility are also onboard, with Frank Vignola joining for the speedy acoustic-electric swing of “Avalon,” the bossa-driven “Brazil” and an intimate take on “Carioca,” and Telecaster master Arlen Roth livening “Mister Sandman” and “Vaya Con Dios,” sung by daughter Lexie Roth. And Bucky Pizzarelli (also on the Jazz Salute CD) stops by for buoyant versions of “I’m Confessin’ That I Love You” and “Just One More Chance.” Two unexpected treats: singer-guitarist José Feliciano on “Besame Mucho” and singer Blondie Chaplin’s slow, poignant version of Charlie Chaplin’s gorgeous “Smile.” Paul would have approved.