All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

206

The Power of the Blues: Eric Clapton & Wynton Marsalis at Jazz at Lincoln Center

By

Sign in to view read count
Eric Clapton, Wynton Marsalis, Taj Mahal
Rose Hall
New York, NY
April 9, 2011

Let's get something out of the way here. Eric Clapton has nothing left to prove. That much is certain. The man many call "god" has accomplished enough throughout his long and varied career that he is now free to pursue any number of his "passion projects." And good on him for taking the time to play these special shows at Jazz at Lincoln Center along with Wynton Marsalis and Taj Mahal. To hear Marsalis tell it, it has been beyond difficult to manage both his and Clapton's busy schedules to arrange for this date, and kudos to both for being diligent.

That said, not every "passion project" turns out great. Often in the recent past, Clapton has been doing nothing more than going through the motions, even when playing with such current luminaries as Doyle Bramhall III and Derek Trucks. On this night, however, playing alongside Marsalis and a crack backing band consisting of members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, all that was thrown out the window. Clapton just had fun.

Clapton suggested the setlist for the evening, but Marsalis came up with the arrangements. And while the songs were blues, the sound was New Orleans jazz. Clapton acquitted himself well in this setting, which he acknowledged was unfamiliar to him. Playing the role assigned to him as frontman of a jazz band, Clapton never seemed to be the show's focus, choosing to remain seated with the band even while playing his electric guitar. And he chose his spots well. A biting solo here, a tasty vocal there, and he showed that his range extends beyond the relatively narrow space of blues-rock.

Marsalis, on the other hand, was right at home. Charming and charismatic as ever, he seemed to be enjoying himself as much as anyone. He showed his chops both during his superbly constructed solos and while providing incendiary rhythm playing. During Howlin' Wolf's "Forty-Four," Marsalis played a rousing call-and-response with Clapton's vocal.

Of the backing band, trombonist Chris Crenshaw was given the most space. His solos stuck out as the trombone is not usually considered a frontline instrument, especially in the blues realm. But the instrument plays an important part in New Orleans music, and Crenshaw is a true virtuoso. Evoking guttural growls from the trombone, he brought the house down on multiple occasions.

Drummer Ali Jackson as well was a treat to witness. His timekeeping and subtle color provided the underpinning of music that often changed tempo at the drop of a dime, as on the set-closing New Orleans funeral dirge "Just A Closer Walk With Thee."

On the whole, this was a truly special evening. From the opening four-song solo set by blues and world music legend Taj Mahal to the deeply jazzy reading of "Layla" (the song was almost unrecognizable), there was a sense of history that was palpable throughout. This was, as Marsalis so elegantly stated, a celebration of the power of the blues.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Adam Rudolph's Galaxies at The Stone Live Reviews
Adam Rudolph's Galaxies at The Stone
by Tyran Grillo
Published: May 14, 2018
Read Nik Bartsch's Ronin at Constellation in Chicago Live Reviews
Nik Bartsch's Ronin at Constellation in Chicago
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: May 14, 2018
Read Denny Zeitlin, Buster Williams & Matt Wilson at Mezzrow Jazz Club Live Reviews
Denny Zeitlin, Buster Williams & Matt Wilson at Mezzrow...
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: May 13, 2018
Read Duski at the Bronx Bar Live Reviews
Duski at the Bronx Bar
by Barry Witherden
Published: May 12, 2018
Read Radio Underground at The Last Stop Sports Bar Live Reviews
Radio Underground at The Last Stop Sports Bar
by Doug Collette
Published: May 12, 2018
Read Nik Bärtsch's Ronin at (Le) Poisson Rouge Live Reviews
Nik Bärtsch's Ronin at (Le) Poisson Rouge
by Tyran Grillo
Published: May 11, 2018
Read "Little Feat at the Paramount" Live Reviews Little Feat at the Paramount
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: June 10, 2017
Read "Ellington's Nutcracker at The Jazz Corner" Live Reviews Ellington's Nutcracker at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: December 25, 2017
Read "Brussels Jazz Festival 2018" Live Reviews Brussels Jazz Festival 2018
by Martin Longley
Published: February 22, 2018
Read "Gilad Hekselman at the Cornelia Street Café" Live Reviews Gilad Hekselman at the Cornelia Street Café
by Tyran Grillo
Published: August 13, 2017
Read "Robinson Morse's Sound of Mind Featuring Peter Apfelbaum at FlynnSpace" Live Reviews Robinson Morse's Sound of Mind Featuring Peter...
by Doug Collette
Published: December 23, 2017