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Bill Clinton and Wynton Marsalis: The 2004 Election Blues Session

Mark F. Turner By

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Politicians and jazz make strange bedfellows

With this being a Presidential election year the focus will definitely be on the economy, homeland security, and a host of other issues. Candidates and their respective parties are already on the road to a very nasty and heated election. While the press delights in negative campaigns, profile attacks, and global unease, there’s a secret in Washington that may never make headlines with the new recording, The 2004 Election Blues Session.

In the first in a series of live recordings featuring politicians in live band settings The 2004 Election Blues Session is somewhat of an anomaly. Picture if you will Democrat and Republican politicians laying aside their fierce partisan views and playing together in undisclosed locations, performing post bop, blues, and pop covers in various group jazz settings.

The bootleg recording of a jam session held in 2000 includes a most interesting and unlikely set of players: former President Bill Clinton , who has been a long time jazz enthusiast and a closet saxophonist, joins jazz trumpeter and Nobel laureate Wynton Marsalis. Add none other than the controversial civil rights activist and Democratic presidential hopeful Reverend Al Sharpton on drums. (Sharpton was once a road manager and drummer to the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.)

Equally shocking is ultra conservative Senator Orrin Hatch on vocals, who is actually a seasoned and recorded singer. Former Florida representative Joe Scarborough , who was the leader of his own rock group the “Regular Joes,” fills in as the bassist to complete this odd mix of liberal and conservative musicians.

Unfortunately the quality of the recording is terrible: Sharpton’s drums completely drown out everyone, and Scarborough’s muddled bass is barely audible. President Clinton proves to be quite a competent saxophonist, delivering boisterous and unbelievable solos. Wynton’s horn is astonishingly subdued throughout the recording, allowing the spotlight to shine more brightly on the politicians rather than him, but the major surprise of the recording singlehandedly goes to Senator Orrin Hatch, who dishes the goods with a rich baritone that exudes both flamboyance and earnest zeal. His remake of Sam Cook’s classic “A Change is Gonna Come” is stirring.

The chance convergence of these political figures on the bandstand is still a mystery with only a hint disclosed in a liner note quote by Marsalis stating “Bill simply asked me if I wouldn’t mind jamming with a unique group of cats.” This may prove to be the understatement of the year.


Track Listing: 1.Watergate Blues 2.Recession Hell No! 3.Power to the Peeps 4.Deficit Scam 5.RIAA Blues 6.War What is it good for?) 7.A Change is Gonna Come

Personnel: Wyton Marsalis

Title: The 2004 Election Blues Session | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Independent Records

April fools!


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