All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

12

Paul Simon: In The Blue Light

Nenad Georgievski By

Sign in to view read count
It's not unusual for artists to re-record a song or two from their past oeuvre. Actually, the history of music is replete with artists revisiting their past achievements. This goes all the way to the era of crooners, and one can see singers like Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett offering different takes on same songs in different settings at different times. Even though this is a new era, the process of revisiting and re-creating past songs and even entire albums has been done by esteemed artists such as Kate Bush, Bruce Springsteen, Natalie Merchant and the Cowboy Junkies, who replicated the marvelous Trinity Sessions (Analog Productions, 1988) in the same intimate setting it was first recorded. Singer Lucinda Williams released the album This Sweet Old World (Elecktra, 1992). Another major artist who is joining these ranks of artists who have re-visitied their past songs is singer and songwriter Paul Simon.

Paul Simon is a master songwriter whose albums are truly a songwriting masterclasses—one would rarely find a misfire in his oeuvre. Most artists consider themselves lucky if they have one or two masterpieces during their entire career. Simon boasts a deep archive of quality songs and has produced a string of masterpieces that still awe and delight.

At the bookend of his career as a performing artist, with the Homeward Bound —The Farewell Tour coming to a close in the autumn of 2018, and with Simon calling it quits to touring, he decided to re-record some songs from various albums from the past that he felt had been overlooked, in order to give them a second chance. In the Blue Light is a deep re-examination of Simon's solo career and it features 10 relatively unknown gems that were some of his personal favorites. The result is an album full of beautiful songs that is worthy of standing as its own entry in Simon's discography.

For this record, he assembled a stellar cast of musicians coming from different genres, predominantly from jazz and classical, in order to breathe new life into these songs. In the Blue Light is a major reinvention of obscure and sometimes time-bound material. As a result, this collection is diverse and varied, but it is astonishing how cohesive this set is. The overall effect is both ephemeral and powerful. This record should be seen as new work, because most of these songs are very different from their relationships to the earlier versions in tone and scale, arrangements and lyrics, and have a clearer clarity of purpose. The songs unfold in a beautiful manner, shapeshifting from loud to quiet, from gentle and vulnerable to dynamic and playful, and back again.

The album kicks off dynamically with the bluesy "One Man's Ceiling is Another Man's Floor," originally from There Goes Rhymin' Simon (Columbia Records, 1973). It soon sets into a quiet mode with the jazzy "Love," where guitarist Bill Frisell adds his distinct surf lines. Collaborating with different arrangers, Simon crafts a series of dramatic ballads like "Darling Lorraine," "Rene and the Georgette Magritte" and "The Teacher." The sheer beauty of these arrangements, in combination with a tasteful, organic aesthetic and masterfully-crafted ambiance prevents things from drifting into a predictable mode. Simon expresses himself on these songs emotionally and honestly, without resorting to over dramatization in order to get a meaning across. On the playful stomp "Pigs, Sheep, and Wolves," that was arranged by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, he plays and sings with a vigor that shows no sign of flagging. The album closes with the gentle ballad "Questions for Angels." The music is simply beautiful and the vibe is mellow.

Simon's songs thrive in new presentations. Their meanings have shifted and grown, and obviously, he has learned a lot about these songs in the interim. This album is not so much a progression as much as it is a deepening. Also, In the Blue Light provides a unique opportunity to do an A/B comparison between a late-career artist and his younger self. Which one the listeners would prefer depends on whether they favor a more assured artist working within his strengths or a young artist delighting in the creation of these beautiful songs.

Track Listing: Disc: 1: One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor; Love; Can't Run But; How the Heart Approaches What It Yearns; Pigs, Sheep and Wolves. Disc: 2: René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War; The Teacher; Darling Lorraine; Some Folks' Lives Roll Easy; Questions for the Angels.

Personnel: Paul Simon: Vocal, Acoustic Guitar, Percussion, Harmonium; Bill Frisell: Electric Guitar; Steve Gadd: Drums; Renaud Garcia-Fons: Bass; Joel Wenhardt: Piano; Nate Smith: Drums; Jim Oblon: Guitar; John Patitucci: Bass; Edie Brickell: Finger Snaps; CJ Camerieri: Trumpet; Andy Snitzer: Saxophone; Sullivan Fortner: Piano; Wynton Marsalis: Trumpet; Marcus Printup: Trumpet; Dan Block: Clarinet; Walter Blanding: Saxophone; Wycliffe Gordon: Tuba; Chris Crenshaw: Trombone; Marion Felder: Drums; Herlin Riley: Tambourine; Odair Assad: Guitar; Sérgio Assad: Guitar; Walter Blanding: Saxophone; Jamey Haddad: Percussion; Vincent Nguini: Electric Guitar; Mark Stewart: Acoustic Guitar; Sullivan Fortner: Piano, Celeste; Jack DeJohnette: Drums; Joe Lovano: Saxophone.

Title: In The Blue Light | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: SMG

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Live 1969

Live 1969

Columbia Records
2008

buy
Surprise

Surprise

Warner Bros.
2006

buy

Related Articles

Read Fat Daddy CD/LP/Track Review
Fat Daddy
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Short Stories CD/LP/Track Review
Short Stories
by Gareth Thompson
Published: September 19, 2018
Read UHHM CD/LP/Track Review
UHHM
by John Bricker
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Decoy CD/LP/Track Review
Decoy
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Paul Heller Meets Roman Schwaller CD/LP/Track Review
Paul Heller Meets Roman Schwaller
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 18, 2018
Read Change In The Air CD/LP/Track Review
Change In The Air
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 18, 2018
Read "Life On Earth" CD/LP/Track Review Life On Earth
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 18, 2018
Read "Is Life Long?" CD/LP/Track Review Is Life Long?
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 19, 2018
Read "We Out Here" CD/LP/Track Review We Out Here
by Chris May
Published: February 24, 2018
Read "Myths and Morals" CD/LP/Track Review Myths and Morals
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: June 22, 2018
Read "In Motion" CD/LP/Track Review In Motion
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 18, 2018
Read "Goya" CD/LP/Track Review Goya
by Karl Ackermann
Published: September 7, 2018