Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton Played The Blues

Posted on April 12th, 2011 in Review | Tags: blues, eric clapton, jalc, new york, quintet

Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton collaborated forces this past weekend at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater, to explore the shared musical ground between New Orleans, the Delta and Chicago. Joined by eight other stellar musicians, including members of Marsalis’ quintet, Marsalis and Clapton performed the works of W.C. Handy, Louis Armstrong, Howlin’ Wolf, Big Maceo and more. The songs were selected by Clapton, while Marsalis’ arrangements embodied the authentic New Orleans sound of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band.

This was not the first time both musicians have performed the blues together. “It was the blues that brought us together because we had played a blues benefit (the Jazz at Lincoln Center gala at the Apollo Theatre) with Ray Charles and B.B. King. We both came up in the tradition, but we embraced the blues from different vantage points,“ said Marsalis. Marsalis also played on Clapton’s 2010 album, Clapton, a record largely devoted to vintage jazz and blues covers.

In his introductory remarks at the first show, Marsalis spoke of Clapton’s vast knowledge of music. Clapton, in turn, sang and soloed like a team player. In the opening number, “Ice Cream,” Clapton locked into a rapid-fire strum with banjo player Don Vappie. Clapton complemented Victor Goines’ crying-clarinet break in W.C. Handy’s slow march “Joe Turner’s Blues” with a chorus of deep long-sob notes. And in a version of Bessie Smith’s 1925 recording “Careless Love,” Clapton coursed through the brass and rhythm tumult with curt phrases in a dirty country-blues tone.

Marsalis told the audience that the show was a celebration of “the international power of the blues.” For Clapton, it was more like homecoming. At one point in the evening, he paused to reminisce: “I used to say to all the bluesmen I met, ‘I’m just doing this until I get a gig with a jazz band.’”

Sharing the stage with Marsalis and Clapton were: Marcus Printup (trumpet), Chris Crenshaw (trombone), Victor Goines (clarinet), Dan Nimmer (piano), Chris Stainton (keyboards), Carlos Henriquez (bass), Ali Jackson (drums) and Don Vappie (banjo). Taj Mahal was the special guest.

The gala performance on Thursday evening raised $3.6 million dollars for Jazz at Lincoln Center’s performance, education and broadcast events. The Thursday and Friday concerts were filmed for DVD.

Set List – Saturday, April 9th

Ice Cream (Howard Johnson / Robert King / Billy Moll)
Forty-Four (Chester Burnett)
Joe Turner’s Blues (W.C. Handy)
The Last Time (Bill Ewing / Sara Martin)
Careless Love (W.C. Handy / Martha E. Koenig / Spencer Williams)
Kidman Blues (Big Maceo Merriweather)
Layla (Eric Clapton / Jim Gordon)
Joliet Bound (Kansas Joe McCoy / Memphis Minnie McCoy)
Just A Closer Walk With Thee (Traditional)
Corrine Corrina (Bo Chatman / Mitchell Parish / J. Mayo Williams) – encore
All arrangements by Wynton Marsalis

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