Thursday, August 13, 2009
One of the Kings is Gone: Rest in Peace Les Paul
In spite of the fact that his enthronement in the pantheon of great American musicians was secured decades ago, he continued to play, to do that which he loved most of all. Monday nights at the at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York belonged to Les and he continued to play all the way up to late this spring, astonishing those who came to see the legend and his assortment of jazz, pop and guitar wizardry that he pioneered himself back in the 1930's, listening to Eddie Lang and Django Reinehardt. Les Paul was the indisputable patriarch not only of jazz guitar, but also of the electric guitar in general, and Les and George Barnes are generally credited as being the pioneers of electric jazz guitar. His influence is recognized by all electric guitar players. Although more press and attention has been given to the rock musicians like Jeff Beck, Steve Miller and Jimmy Page who cite his imprint and signature guitar, I believe there were other guitarists who absorbed some of his vaunted techniques and built them into their own style. Among these I would mention Phil Baugh, Jimmy Bryant, Danny Gatton, Tommy Emanuel, Bucky Barret and John Jorgenson. Give a listen to one of Paul's early recordings, "Lover," featuring multi-tracking, one of his technical innovations. Also, "How High the Moon" with Mary Ford is a must. Rest in peace Les, you will be sorely missed but your legacy will continue to grow with time.