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Concert Review: Paul Simon & Wynton Marsalis at JALC

Special guest Aaron Neville and a 20+-piece orchestra give classic songs a new twist

Aaron Neville, Paul Simon & Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC 4-19-12
Paul Simon, Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC, 4-19-12
Paul Simon, Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC, 4-19-12

For all of their stylistic differences-one’s a virtuosic jazz purist, the other a gifted singer-songwriter-Paul Simon and Wynton Marsalis had no trouble transcending category and finding common ground in the second of three joint performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center. For Marsalis, reaching beyond the jazz wall has long been a favorite pastime: In 2007, he collaborated at JALC with the country/roots singer Willie Nelson and early last year he teamed with blues-rock guitar legend Eric Clapton (both of those shows were released on CD and DVD; the Simon shows were, not visibly anyway, apparently not recorded or filmed). Marsalis has also bonded artistically with classical orchestras, dance troupes and the Ghanaian percussionist Yacub Addy.

Simon, for his part, has always been a curious and resourceful musician. As far back as his Simon and Garfunkel days in the ’60s, he brought in players from outside cultures to spice up arrangements, and since the ’80s, he’s made a habit of mixing it up: the iconic Graceland (1986) featured South African musicians and singers, and on 1990’s The Rhythm of the Saints, he utilized Brazilian, zydeco, Afro-Cuban and jazz musicians to help realize his compositions.

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