Jazz Guitar Shrine Expands Beyond Jazz to Survive

Les Paul
For years the Iridium has been known as not only the home of Les Paul, the electric-guitar pioneer, but also as one of the city's premier jazz clubs, where on any given night you can hear big-name performers like the pianist McCoy Tyner or the bassist Charlie Haden.

But these days its calendar is full of guitarists from the worlds of rock, blues and pop, as the owner tries to transform the Iridium into a guitar Mecca, a shrine of sorts to Paul, who died in August 2009. Take the October lineup: It included jazz musicians like the guitarist Stanley Jordan and the saxophonist Richie Cole, as well as rock guitarists like Robby Krieger, formerly of the Doors; Adrian Belew, of King Crimson fame; and Marshall Crenshaw, who wrote the pop hit “Someday, Someway."

On tap for this month are the jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, as well as veteran rockers like Albert and Joe Bouchard of Blue Oyster Cult and younger rock musicians like Devon Allman and his group, Honeytribe.

“What do you do when you lose Les Paul?" the owner, Ron Sturm, said in an interview at the club, at Broadway and 51st Street. “Do you go out of business? How do you adapt to change?"

His answer is to lure more rock and blues fans—especially guitar aficionados in their 40s and 50s—who might be open to expanding their tastes to jazz or jazz-rock.

“I want to turn them on to jazz and to turn them on to rock," Mr. Sturm said, “and the fact I'm doing rock is good for jazz, because I'm bringing in people who normally wouldn't be there."

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