on September 14, 2011
Some artists reach a point in their careers where you feel they have nothing left to prove. Wynton Marsalis has earned every accolade in the jazz world-nine Grammys in Jazz and classical music, and the first Jazz musician to win a Pulitzer prize for music ("Blood on the Field"}. Eric Clapton, of course, has been one of the top guitar gods for nearly five decades. Both of these accomplished musicians could coast at this point- something they have been criticized for in recent years. For this performance, live at Lincoln Center in April 2011, they made a bit of musical history.
When Marsalis and Clapton decided on this project, they went after the sound of an early jump-blues band with a New Orleans vibe. This enabled the duo to give themselves latitude in instrumentation. The band is based on King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band (where Louis Armstrong first gained fame), but with the addition of guitar and keyboards. This culminated in a sound respecting Trad Jazz while acknowledging the music of today.
The disc's opener, "Ice Cream" shows the group having a ball. Several members, including Marsalis sing the chorus in a fun fashion backing Clapton's lead vocal. In true Dixieland fashion, solos seamlessly follow each other. Victor Goines plays a lovely clarinet solo in "Joe Turner's Blues", followed by a very nimble Clapton. Hearing him in a Jazz setting is a real treat. The great Don Vappie plays some of the best banjo this side of Bela Fleck.
After "Kidman Blues", Clapton engages the audience rather humbly, telling how intimidated he was by so many schooled Jazz musicians. Clearly, he is the star of this show, and his playing is a perfect fit with the Marsalis band.
Reading the set list: do we need another "Layla"? This track is probably the biggest surprise on a disc filled with them. Clapton didn't plan on adding "Layla" to the show, but bass player Carlos Henriquez was insistent. Marsalis, Clapton and Goines all play engaging solos, and Clapton's voice just gets better with age. Along with pianist Dan Nimmer, long time Clapton collaborator Chris Stainton adds keyboards throughout the concert.
Taj Mahal is a surprise guest vocalist on the gospel standard "Just a Closer Walk With Thee". He also guests on "Corrine, Corrina"- a bonus track not included on the CD. Here he gets to show his considerable skills on the 5-string banjo, followed by Clapton, Marsalis and second trumpeter Marcus Printup. Stainton is featured on electric piano (this guy does not age).
Jazz at Lincoln Center is one of the most successful music projects to be recorded in recent years. Kudos to producers Marsalis, Clapton and Ashley Schiff Ramos for a great recording and to director Martyn Atkins for a fine DVD.
I'm not usually a big Eric Clapton fan, and even though Wynton Marsalis is a phenomenal trumpet player, sometimes he comes off to me as too clinical and he doesn't "swing." Rest assured, both of those preconceptions go out the door in this concert recording.
First off, the music on this concert CD consists of old-school blues played in a jazz/Dixieland style. While I wasn't familiar with many of the songs, the interpretations really work and allow all of the various instruments to be showcased at one time or another - trumpet, clarinet, piano, banjo, trombone, drums. Every now and then you can hear a Clapton electric guitar riff and only once or twice does it seem out of place. Layla is reworked as a Dixieland dirge with a plodding tempo and, man does it work that way.
You can tell right away that these guys are having a BLAST. It really shows in the playing, which is masterful. And effortless. At times you think these guys just hooked up for a jam session, and then you listen to some unison/harmonized horn runs and realize the technical proficiency on display. Not one note is out of place.
In addition, this is a really hot recording. It seems like microphones were placed midway between the crowd and the band and turned all the way up so every little sound in the room is picked up. It really makes you feel imbedded in the concert and adds to the feel. And the acoustic horn and percussion instruments blend together exceptionally. It reminds me of being in Preservation Hall in New Orleans.
So all I can say is that the musicianship on here is incredible and the CD is a lot of fun. If you like Dixieland-based jazz arrangements, you will really enjoy this.
on September 29, 2011
If this album doesn't lift your mood and spirits you can't possibly have a pulse.
This is music at its very best and it is definitely best to ignore some of the largely ill-informed "this isn't blues", "this isn't Clapton", "this is c**p" reviews from some of people contributing, who, demonstrably, seem to have little musical knowledge, appreciation or taste. Quite simply, this is a terrific and infectious album - a joy to listen to.
I have been a Clapton fan since I was 12 in the mid-1960s and, in my opinion, this is one of the best albums he has put out in a long time.
It has been fascinating watching Clapton's progress over the past five or six years - it's almost as if he is doing a final lap of honour before he shuffles off this mortal coil. First he reforms Cream, then gets Derek Trucks to take on the Duane Allman role in a reprise of Derek and the Dominoes, next he links up with Steve Winwood for what was effectively a Blind Faith reunion, records an album with JJ Cale . . . etc, etc (and long may it continue!)
I've been lucky enough to see him live quite a few time recently and by a long way his worst performance came when he was on his own, just playing with his band. These days he seems to need somebody else to bounce off, and when he finds a collaborator or sidekick of the calibre of Wynton Marsalis (or Winwood or Trucks) his own performances have been elevated.
This album is highly recommended and for fans of Clapton looking for another guitarist to "worship" look no further than Derek Trucks, who will keep the flame burning for years to come. If you haven't heard it yet check out Revelator by the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
on October 15, 2011
With 54 reviews already recorded and 31 of them in the 4 and 5 star category my opinion hardly seems needed or relevant. Perhaps my age (nearly 60) is worth something besides a few aches and pains. Having been an EC fan since his rave-up days with the Yardbirds, I suppose I can claim some listening expertise and opinion. Frankly, I cannot add nor detract from most of what has already been said here save for a couple of comments.
When I first read about this project, I thought "this might be interesting" though I completely misdiagnosed the product. Having only minimal familiarity with Mr. Marsalis' accomplishments in the world of jazz, I presumed the music would have a modern or traditional jazz direction but I was sorely mistaken. When I cued up a sample on Amazon after the album became available and I heard the familiar New Orleans' Preservation Hall sound, I knew immediately I would add this recording to my exhaustive library of EC's work. I don't buy many CD's anymore because I now download most of my music (not bad for an old timer!) but since I already own just about everything ever laid down by Mr. Clapton, I wanted to keep my collection complete and up to date.
The band backing Mrrs. Clapton and Marsalis is nothing short of extraordinary and polished. They produce an orchestrated cacophony of layers of instruments - brass, clarinet, banjo, bass and percussion that is nothing short of genius. These seemingly random notes are as well placed as the stroke of a master's paint brush to canvas creating a muscial masterpiece.
I've always had a soft spot for New Orleans' jazz ever since I first heard the Dixieland Band at Disneyland as a young boy. A couple of trips to the Big Easy and hearing the real deal only sealed my love and admiration for this style of music. To now have my musical mentor produce an album like this is a great and satisfying joy. I love this album and would love to witness this show live someday. Enjoy.
on September 15, 2011
given the choice between a recording that captures a moment,or a more polished studio recording.I`ll take the former.these guys are jamming and having fun.The beauty is you know this is real players,not a cut and paste job.Like so many modern"musicians".Ensemble playing is about weaving together,laying back at times,then cutting through at others.All the players are outstanding,including clapton.And clapton`s vocals are great.reading the setlist,I thought do we need another version of Layla.But this song is one of my favorites on the cd,clapton`s vocal phrasing is great.Music is about capturing a moment.this is a great cd.
One of the first things that strikes you as you watch/listen to this collaboration between 2 musical giants is that this isn't your father's blues. This isn't Texas blues or Mississippi blues. At least not as is understood by most. Although Eric Clapton chose all but one of the songs here, they have a far distant tint. The music may be thought to be what is traditionally known as Dixieland music from New Orleans. And while there is certainly some mingling of the jazz genres at work, from Marsalis and Clapton's perspective, this is also Blues. One thing is certain. This is a gathering of some great musicians, mostly from Marsalis gang. Each is given an opportunity to shine as neither of the stars is wont to stand out. Clapton in particular seems thankful to have such a diverse group gather on his behalf. Few of these songs are familiar to me but all sound terrific. Surprisingly, the troop performs at their best on a New Orleans swing/dirge arrangement of Clapton's own "Layla". And don't pass up the extra track on the DVD of a Taj Mahal solo performing some brilliant guitar work and singing on the classic "Stagger Lee". The DVD that comes with the CD is crystal clear when up converted on a Blu-ray player and the DTS 5.1 sound is very good. This concert may not be for everyone, but if you're looking for a little bit different musical experience, check this out. The CD/DVD combo package is a steal!
on September 28, 2011
I guess some people think the blues started with Robert Johnson. Or that "the blues" is what came out of Chess Records in the 1950s. Or "the blues" is what Cream recorded. To call this just "Dixieland Jazz" somewhat misses the mark. As Marsalis explains in the liner notes, Clapton is a walking blues encyclopedia and well versed in the entire history of the blues going back to WC Handy and including all genres and styles. What the two have done here is put together a combo that can play all styles, including Handy style blues (they cover two of his songs), jug band blues, Delta blues, gospel and Chicago blues. The arrangements range to full Dixieland treatment to a mixture of blues stylings. The group covers Layla, and for those who think the unplugged version was blasphemous, you will think this version is an abomination. But I like it and think it's wonderful to listen to a great musician re-imagine one of his signature songs. Taj Mahal joins on two songs, and some reviewers don't get it. Taj is also a blues historian who has not only incorporated Dixieland into his music, but has taken the blues all the way back to Mali and recorded with African musicians. He fits very well here.
The performance is presented just as it sounded to the audience. No over-mixing, overdubs or auto-tuning as you typically find in other "live" recordings. You actually get a sense of the room, something sorely lacking from other "live" recordings. It takes some getting used to only because you're not used to hearing a live performance recorded in this way. There are some trade-offs, naturally. Clapton's lead vocals on Joe Turner's Blues are nearly inaudible due to the backing vocals. And yes, there's a few bum notes here and there. But life and music can be messy, and that's the beauty of it. It's an old school approach to live recording and fits the genre of the music.
I don't listen to Marsalis or Dixieland so I can't comment on the relative merit of those performances. But I can say that Clapton's solos (although few) are among the most inventive I've heard from him in some time. Vocally, he sometimes slips into a growl to lend some misguided authenticity to the song. In one instance he slides between smooth and gruff several times in the same verse! I did not find that appealing and I wish he would have been more selective in how he sang the songs.
I like this, but I can't say that I love it. It's interesting and I'm sure I will listen to it occasionally when I want something new yet familiar. Marsalis and Clapton take us through the blues history book in a very entertaining fashion.
on September 20, 2011
I wanted more. Maybe my expectations based on the artists noted here set me up a bit. But this audio/cd does not satisfy. Taken apart - both Clapton and Marsalis are exemplary musicians (not that either one of them awaits my approval one way or the other), together it does not work. First - something about the band's approach to jump blues is a bit too classical or Mr. Clapton's approach is either too fluid or timid. Second - and I am speaking for myself here - there may have been tension between artists, despite liner notes to the contrary as there is something slightly uncomfortable in the application or at least it seems so to me. Solos are slightly off key, the clarinet a bit sour instead of a bit blue for lack of better way to say it. The presentation as a whole lacks...flow.
But there are moments - I appreciate the interpretation of Layla. The addition of jazz flavors this piece quite nicely. Well done. I felt that Careless Love and Joe Turner's Blues hinted strongly at the potential this pairing could have delivered.
To be fair, the few days of rehearsal did not seem to serve the depth of talent represented here. And finally, I wasn't there for the performance at the Lincoln Center. What seems magical about a live performance is lost at times when presented in another medium.
on September 21, 2011
Clapton Marsalis plays The blues @ The Rose Room Lincoln Center
I was @ The orginal show in April and loved it then and I love it now on DVD
But I must say that based some of the reviews on Amazon....
I say this....
CLAPTON FANS PLEASE GROW UP....
Eric has grown up how bout you...
This is two different artists of different training melding into one and Clapton is going for another challenge and nails it with great interpretion and ripping solos and thank GOD for Carlos suggestioning Layla " This an absolute classic and will be for years to come...
Marsalis, Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center and nine-time Grammy® Award winner, writes about his collaboration with Clapton, a 19-time Grammy recipient, in the album's liner notes: "...we wanted these concerts to sound like people playing music they know and love, not like a project."
To help them achieve that level of devotion, Marsalis and Clapton were joined on stage by Dan Nimmer (piano), Carlos Henriquez (bass), Ali Jackson (drums), Marcus Printup (trumpet), Victor Goines (clarinet), Chris Crenshaw (trombone, vocals), Don Vappie (banjo) and Clapton's longtime keyboardist/sideman Chris Stainton. Marsalis says the group combined the sound of an early blues jump-band with the sound of New Orleans jazz to accommodate the integration of guitar/trumpet lead, a combination that gave the musicians the latitude to play different grooves, from the Delta to the Caribbean and beyond.
The band nimbly navigated a diverse set list that touched on different styles, from the four-on-the-floor swing of Louis Armstrong's "Ice Cream" and the southern slow-drag of W.C. Handy's "Joe Turner's Blues" to the traveling blues of "Joliet Bound" and the boogie-woogie jump of "Kidman Blues." After opening the shows with his solo set, Mahal returned to join the band on "Corrine, Corrina" and the New Orleans funeral standard "Just A Closer Walk With Thee."
The one song not selected by Clapton for the show was his own "Layla," which was requested by bassist Henriquez and arranged as a Crescent City dirge to tremendous results. On his review of the performance, David Fricke of Rolling Stone wrote: "In the [song's] instrumental break, Clapton hit a series of stabbing licks lightly crusted with distortion, followed by Marsalis' slow parade of clean hurting peals - a moving dialogue in lovesickness and blues routes."
The pairing of music legends like Eric Clapton and Wynton Marsallis should be enough of an appeal to people to listen to this disc. I have to agree that the sound quality is not that best on this disc on some tracks. I could barely make out the sound on the track "Joe Turner's Blues". The postive aspect is that I still enjoyed most of this music. My favorite track is "Ice Cream". Wynton's trumpet playing is superb. I also like Victor Goines playing on the clarinet. "The Last Time" is a delightful tune with a playful tone. The horns playing on this track makes it special. Eric's vocals are really indistinct on "Layla". I could barely hear him, but I could clearly hear the trumpet and electric guitar playing on this track. "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" is a gospel song I would hear in church. The church version I usually hear puts me to sleep. The blues version featured on this disc is a cool satisfying listen. "Kidman's Blues is that rare upbeat blues song. What I like about this song would have to be the lively piano playing by Dan Nimmer. "Joilet Bound" is a song that I can see myself listening to while driving on the road. "Careless Love"is a track that I have heard from female singers. This version has a more reflective tone. I like Clapton's vocals here. The music is fine, even though the sound quality on some tracks is not always crisp on this disc.