Electric guitar innovator Les Paul turns 94 today—and only last week I enjoyed seeing him perform his Monday night gig at Iridium.
Mellowness prevailed throughout the set, as Paul and his trio made their way through numerous standards including "Night and Day." There wasn't much flashiness to the performances—instead, the gig was mainly about a bunch of musicians and clubgoers simply enjoying their time together.
Paul might have done as much talking and listening as strumming. Tossing off self-deprecating jokes, reminiscing about his incredible career, and chatting up his trio and the three guest performers who stopped by, he reminded me of the amazing Groucho Marx on You Bet Your Life or perhaps George Burns when Burns was Paul's age. A quick post-concert web search confirmed that Paul relied on shtick that he's trotted out before, but as this was my first time in his presence, that was okay. He came across as soft-spoken and clever—and still playing tasty guitar.
One of the guests wasn't the kind of musician I see every day. Tap-dancer Andrew J. Nemr, apparently a regular at these gigs, clicked out a couple of numbers including "'Round Midnight."
And I, like many others before me, was very impressed by Paul's bassist, Australian Nicki Parrott. To use some old lingo, she's the whole package—and Les Paul & Company know it. On this occasion she sang a wonderfully naughty tribute to Paul—really good fun.
This should give you a sense of what that was like.