From his early years, playing blues on Chicago’s South Side, to his present multi-faceted career based out of northern Vermont, Paul has earned an underground reputation as a true “musician’s musician”. He has played and recorded with Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Earl Hooker, Lightnin’ Slim, Paul Butterfield, Sam Lay, Pops Staples, Donny Hathaway, and numerous others while in his hometown of Chicago, Ill.
Paul moved to Vermont in the heady “back-to-the-land” days of 1971, where he still lives. He soon started playing and recording with a head-spinningly diverse array of artists, including Big Mama Thornton, singer-songwriters Paul Siebel, Jim Ringer, Mary McCaslin, and Rosalie Sorrells, jazz greats Jon Hendricks, Bobby McFerrin, Sonny Stitt, and Nick Brignola, and many others. (Visit the Discography page for info on the many recordings from these early days…)
In 1978, seeking an outlet for more personal musical visions, he formed Kilimanjaro , and recorded 2 award-winning albums for Philo Records. Soon after, the band performed at the Kool Jazz Festival at SPAC, the Atlanta Jazz Festival, the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, and numerous national tours and concert dates.
Kilimanjaro served as backup band on lengthy national tours with Esther Satterfield, and Paul Butterfield, with whom they played the Montreal Jazz Festival, and the Roskilde Festival in Copenhagen.
In 1981, Paul and other members of Kilimanjaro joined forces with a legendary saxophonist and blues singer to form Big Joe Burrell and the Unknown Blues Band. Together, they performed at many festivals, including the Kool Jazz Festival, toured Russia, Holland, and Canada, and served as backup band for Marva Wright, Kenny Neal, W.C. Clark, and others. The UBB remained a Northeast regional favorite for over 20 years, until Big Joe’s passing in 2005.
Personal performance credits in recent years include David Bromberg, Betty Carter, Joshua Redman, James Carter, Kermit Ruffins, Michael Ray, the Sun Ra Arkestra, The Wild Magnolias, John Stowell, guitar wunderkind Julian Lage, Dave Grippo and former students Trey Anastasio and Nick Cassarino.
Paul has taught guitar for over 45 years. Private instruction remains a favored format, but he has also taught for several decades on a university level, including positions at Dartmouth College, St. Michaels College, and presently at Middlebury College and the University Of Vermont . More info on private instruction, workshops, and TAB transcriptions at reduced prices can be found on the Instruction page.
Since 1994, Paul has been reconnecting with his original folk-based roots in enthusiastically received festival shows and solo concerts. Recent appearances include Merlefest, Guitar Festivals in Healdsburg (CA), Newport (RI), Memphis (TN), Woodstock (NY), and numerous other acoustic venues across the country. His 3 solo acoustic CD’s, “Steel String Americana“, “Roots and Branches“, and “From Adamant To Atchafalaya” received numerous rave reviews for their highly individualized twists on blues and jazz standards, old-timey country-based themes and original pieces from the “american roots” tradition. The Flynn Theater called them “A genre-blurring, virtuosic waltz through the deep heritage of American folklore, where styles of Robert Johnson, Doc Watson and Dr. John rub elbows with those of Joe Pass and Bill Frisell.” Others have said “It is quite the best CD of acoustic guitar that I have heard in years!”
A while back, Paul received Seven Days magazine’s “Best Musician of 2004” Daysie Award (the runner-up was a young up-and-comer named Trey Anastasio…) That same year saw the release of Patti Casey’s “Just an Old Sweet Song”, a “live-in-the-studio” record of old standards, explored in the intimate setting of just vocals and guitar. Other duo partners since then have included Brooks Williams, Mike Dowling, Chuck D’Aloia and Elisabeth Von Trapp.
Paul has been a frequent contributor to several web-based guitar forums over the years. He was the first “Artist of the Month” on 13thFret.com, and produced a series of downloadable video lessons for Acoustic Player Magazine. Recently, he created instructional videos for Peghead Nation, Dream Guitars, Guitar Player and Acoustic Guitar magazine, who said “Asbell’s musical personality comes out most fully when playing his own brand of American roots music… in live performance, Asbell reveals a deep appreciation of the history behind each tune, while giving them a fresh, updated touch.” More video footage of concerts and festival appearances can be found on YouTube .
Two sold-out Kilimanjaro shows at the Discover Jazz Festival in June, ’06 fueled a resurgence of interest in the group, the writing of 9 new compositions, and the beginning of a two-year recording project at Kilimanjaro keyboardist Chas Eller’s studio. The result, “Homecoming“, was picked by Jazziz magazine for their “Best of 2009” CD, along with tracks by Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Branford Marsalis, and other heavyweights. “Homecoming” is available for audition or purchase at KilimanjaroJazz.com .