Les Paul, Live In New York – Special Collector’s Edition (2011)

by | Nov 12, 2011 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

Les Paul, Live In New York – Special Collector’s Edition (2011)
Studio: Questar [Also avail. as Blu-ray]
Video: 16×9, Color/Black &White
Audio: English, DD 2.0
Length: 120 minutes
Rating: *****

It was impossible to compare Les Paul to anyone. He impacted the recording industry as a musician and inventor. He is widely considered to be responsible for developing the solid body electric guitar. His innovation in studio technology is mind-boggling in its far-reaching implications. Furthermore, he was a brilliant guitarist.
Les Paul Live In New York is a fitting homage to this larger-than-life individual who passed away in 2009. Various pickers, singers and other players join Paul on the stage of the Iridium Jazz Club in New York (where Paul performed on Monday nights). Among the many highlights is a sparkling collaboration with mandolin great David Grisman on “Limehouse Blues”. The ageless virtuoso teams with Tommy Emmanuel on “Blue Moon”. Steve Miller (who has a sensational extended guest spot), Keith Richards, Jose Feliciano all wait for the opportunity to play with the iconoclast ninety-year old. There is a hilarious moment when Miller plugs in with his Fender guitar at the staged “shock” of Paul.
Despite arthritis, Paul’s guitar licks are unbelievable. He can play anything from swing jazz to classical or rockabilly. The movie is interspersed with deserved acknowledgement from a cross section of the musical community. It is exhilarating to watch his mastery on tunes like “Tennessee Waltz” and “Sweet Georgia Brown”. His easygoing banter and anecdotal conversations are warm and endearing. A country jazz arrangement of “Back Home In Indiana” is dazzling. He even jams with a tap dancer.
The bonus features (in black and white) are more than worthwhile. Archival footage of The Les Paul/Mary Ford Listerine Show portrays the couple as a country swing Ozzie and Harriet. A 1940’s film “Soundie” shows a vintage classical take on “Dark Eyes”. The essence of this legend is captured in the Alistair Cooke interview. Paul demonstrates the recording technology to the awe-struck interviewer. He looks like a mad scientist twisting the dials on the sound board and delighting Cooke with vocal overdubbing.
The concert footage is straightforward and clean. Shots of New York’s skyline and street life are creative. The use of a split-screen is also engaging, and never detracts from the performance.  The sound on the stereo portions is clear and animates the guitars. Nothing in this DVD seems gratuitous.
Chapters: Intro; David Grisman; Tennessee Waltz; Sonya Hensley: Tommy Emmanuel; Nicki Parrott; Sleepwalk; Lou Pallo; Jay Leonhart; Jose Feliciano; Keith Richards; Violin &Tap; Steve Miller; Ending Credits; Bonus Features: Thoughts On Les; The Listerine Show; Soundie: Dark Eyes; Omnibus With Alistair Cooke; John Mack Interview; Audio Download Track.
–Robbie Gerson

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