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David Crosby: Crosby, Coltrane & Miles

A renowned singer-songwriter tells tales from his surprisingly deep—and still-thriving—jazz life

David Crosby recording with Snarky Puppy in New Orleans, for the band's 2016 release Family Dinner - Volume 2 (photo by Stella K)
David Crosby recording with Snarky Puppy in New Orleans, for the band’s 2016 release Family Dinner – Volume 2 (photo by Stella K)

No one would ever call David Crosby a jazz singer. Yet the singer-songwriter’s music—his guitar tunings, chording and vocal phrasing, his insatiable desire to step out of bounds—has been informed by jazz since he first appeared on the scene in the mid-’60s as an original member of the Byrds. While neither that group nor Crosby, Stills & Nash ever steered toward jazz in an overt manner, Crosby’s lifelong love for the music has, at times, poked through and made itself known. In 1970, no less than Miles Davis picked up on and covered “Guinnevere,” a ballad Crosby had written the previous year for the debut CSN album (more on that in a minute).

That song found its way into a new jazz-based arrangement in 2013, when Crosby, Stills & Nash collaborated with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for a pair of New York concerts. With Stephen Stills sitting it out, Crosby, playing acoustic guitar, and Nash harmonized while Marsalis blew muted trumpet.

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