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Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton – Play the Blues: Live from Jazz at Lincoln Center

September 22, 2011

In January of 2007 Marsalis did a similar concert with Willie Nelson.  For those of you not fully familiar with Willie this was not really an odd match up.  Willie has a jazz/swing side and has always had impeccable ear for the great American songbook.

The match up with Clapton makes sense given Clapton’s encyclopedic knowledge of the blues.  What makes this fun is that Clapton does not do his typical electric blues or even acoustic blues, but instead turns the reins over to Marsalis’ New Orleans traditional jazz aesthetics.  These are wonderful arrangements of traditional blues songs.

I am not very educated in this style of music, but you really get the idea of what is going on when the band rearranges Clapton’s Layla as a New Orleans styled jazz funeral dirge – it re-imagines that familiar tune in a wonderful way. I really enjoyed hearing Clapton in this context.

A real treat for me was hearing Marsalis band – these are amazing players who have amazing chops and tone.  Particularly notable was trombonist Chris Crenshaw – his tone is wonderfully nasty.

My only real disappointment was the recording quality – this also marred the Willie Nelson set too.  It does not really capture the concert hall – there is a narrowness and harshness to the recording.  But like a classic old vinyl recording with crackle and pops in the grooves this is pretty easy to overlook because the underlying music is so wonderful.

Be warned if you are a pop-Clapton fan you may not like this, but if you are open to jazz or to Clapton’s more traditional blues work you will not be disappointed.

Added note on Clapton – I have utmost respect for this guy, but he has put out so many duds over the years – why?  I have a theory that Eric is only truly inspired when he is with the right players (he is always with great players, just not always the “right” players).  Get him with the right players and he is amazing, get him with the wrong players (sorry Phil Collins) and he is sappy.  Marsalis is the right player.


From → Music Reviews

One Comment
  1. I’ll try to check this out. Like it when EC gets to this kind of playing. Wynton is just a special kind of musician and guy. (Just picked up a J J Cale and EC disc. Your right about Clapton playing with the right guys. JJ is the right guy)

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