By Chris M. Junior
Les Paul is synonymous with innovative music, multitrack recording and, of course, his namesake Gibson electric guitar.
He’s also the first person who comes to mind with regard to the Iridium, the intimate Manhattan jazz club where he was a Monday-night mainstay.
Guitarist Lou Pallo played with Paul on those Monday evenings, so it was only fitting that Pallo picked a Monday — and the Iridium — for his star-studded tributes to the late legend.
Pallo’s pair of shows on Sept. 10 were in celebration of his new album, “Thank You Les” (Showplace Music Productions), and some of the big names who joined Pallo on the CD were also on hand for the early show.
There were singers: Longtime Rolling Stones sideman Blondie Chaplin was serious and sincere performing “Smile,” while former Rascals member Eddie Brigati followed his brief, humorous Marlon Brando/Don Corleone impression with a lighthearted version of “I’m Confessin’ That I Love You.”
The true stars, however, were the guitarists. Appropriately enough, Steve Miller —Paul’s godson, and the writer of the tribute album’s liner notes — played a sunburst Gibson (outfitted with a tremolo bar) once owned by Paul.
“It’s in tune, Steve,” deadpanned Pallo, referring to Miller’s story in the album’s DVD documentary (screened prior to the early show) about the purposely out-of-tune guitar that Paul would set aside at his gigs specifically for surprise guests.
Arlen Roth was flawless in performing his contribution to the tribute album, an instrumental take on “Mr. Sandman,” his harmonics, tone and choice of notes truly in Paul’s style.
And even with the parade of guests, the graceful and personable Pallo was not overshadowed at any time. Nobody alive really comes close to matching Paul’s skill set as a guitarist, performer and bandleader — except for Pallo. It was evident on Sept. 10, it’s evident on the “Thank You Les” CD (released Sept. 11) and it’s evident whenever he’s performing at the Iridium — deservedly so, on Monday nights.