The legendary Les Paul spent the last 14 years of his life playing every Monday at New York City's famed Iridium Jazz Club. What better place for fellow legend Jeff Beck to honor one of his heroes on what would have been Paul's 95th birthday? Beck enlisted the aid of several guests, including Imelda May, Darrel Higham, Brian Setzer, Gary U.S. Bonds and Trombone Shorty for a tribute concert, the results of which make up the DVD Jeff Beck — Rock 'n' Roll Party Honoring Les Paul.
The concert features a number of Paul's hits as well as several rockabilly numbers. As Paul was a pioneer in the use of slapback echo — which features prominently on the rockabilly tracks — they do not seem out of place with the jazzier Paul standards.
The show opens with a version of "Baby Let's Play House" that would have made Elvis Presley proud. Higham (Imelda May's guitarist and husband) takes lead vocals and the band plays in the same combo setting made famous by Presley — two guitars, upright bass and drums. Gene Vincent's "Double Talkin' Baby" has Beck's guitar slathered in echo while he brings out the Telecaster for a rocking version of Johnny Burnette's arrangement of "Train Kept A Rollin," a song later made famous by Beck's old group, the Yardbirds.
May takes the vocals on a number of songs, including a bluesy "Poor Boy" with Beck on slide guitar and the saloon song, "Cry Me A River," from Beck's favorite movie, The Girl Can't Help it. On "How High The Moon," May informs the audience that she prerecorded her own background vocals ala Mary Ford and the version of "Tiger Rag" here is fast and furious, both vocally and musically.
Trombone Shorty guests on a spirited version of "Peter Gunn" while Beck continues the instrumental theme with spot-on versions of "Apache" and Sleep Walk." Gary U.S. Bonds shows he's still got it with his exciting version of "New Orleans" that really got the crowd going while Brian Setzer joins the band on vocals and guitar for a spirited "Twenty Flight Rock." The show ends with an all-star jam of "Shake, Rattle & Roll" in honor of Bill Haley.
In addition to the concert, the DVD includes a number of bonus features, including an interview with Jeff Beck, behind the scenes footage and At Home with Jeff Beck and his Guitars. The best of the bonus features though are Jeff Beck and Les Paul Rock 'n Roll Tonite, which features footage of the two giants jamming from the 1980s and Les Paul and his Little Black Box from the same show where Paul describes the secrets of his legendary black box.
Les Paul was a giant in the music business, both in terms of his playing and his inventions. The use of echo, multitrack recordings and solid body electric guitars all owe a debt to Paul's genius. It's not a stretch to say Paul influenced how recordings are made to this day. For these reasons, it makes sense that Jeff Beck, a man also known for pushing the boundaries of the instrument, would pay tribute to this legend and it is what makes Jeff Beck — Rock 'n' Roll Party Honoring Les Paul such a worthwhile DVD.