Guitarist, songwriter, and music innovator Les Paul passed away August 13, 2009 at the age of 94. His impact on popular music is immense. Among the many honors bestowed upon Paul was his 2005 induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his innovations that led to the first solid-body electric guitar. Some seventeen years earlier, it was Jeff Beck who inducted Les Paul into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On June 9th, 2010, at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City, Beck led a group of musicians through a tribute to his late hero. The concert was taped for posterity and has been issued on Blu-ray and DVD as Rock 'n' Roll Party Honoring Les Paul.
Roughly the first half of the show is dedicated to renditions of songs associated with Les Paul and early rockers influenced by his sound. Rockabilly guitarist and vocalist Darrel Higham fronts the band for the first several tunes. His vocal delivery really captures the feel of 1950s rock and roll. Stephen Rushton is on drums with Al Gare on upright bass. Beck is ultra-precise in his recreation of original lead guitar lines. Vocalist Imelda May leads the band through a number of tunes, including numerous songs made famous by Les Paul and Mary Ford. May pre-recorded harmony vocals that she sings live with, recreating the distinct style once pioneered by the duo. These songs include jazz standards such as "How High the Moon" and "Tiger Rag."
Things take a decidedly more rocking turn about halfway through, with a scorching rendition of "The Peter Gunn Theme," featuring a powerhouse horn section. Troy Andrews, aka Trombone Shorty, is on hand as a special guest along with tenor sax man Leo Green, Dave Priseman on trumpet, and Blue Lou Marini (of the Blues Brothers Band) on baritone sax. Beck really starts to let his hair down at this point, with his carefully crafted leads becoming increasingly raucous.
Legendary rock and roller Gary U.S. Bonds joins the band for "New Orleans" and Stray Cat Brian Setzer sits in for "Twenty Flight Rock." Imelda May comes back out for some sizzlingly intense tunes, highlighted by the Shangri-La's "Remember (Walking In the Sand)." Beck's guitar work is extraordinary throughout, but he just kills it on this number. Higham leads the expanded group through a trio of early rock and roll classics, including Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle & Roll," bringing down the house.