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Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton @ JALC

April 9, 2011; Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York, N.Y.

Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton "Play the Blues" at Jazz at Lincoln Center
Wynton Marsalis, Eric Clapton & Taj Mahal at Jazz at Lincoln Center

The blues is perhaps the most versatile, adaptable musical form in the history of organized sound; that is its most astonishing and enduring asset. It’s big enough and pliable enough to bond musicians both learned and intuitive, acoustic and electric, from nations on opposing sides of the sea.

That was the thesis of “Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton Play the Blues,” a series of concerts that took place at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater April 7-9. (The first show acted as a gala fundraising event for JALC.) Clapton picked the tunes-mostly prewar record-hound material by W.C. Handy, Louis Armstrong and others-while Marsalis arranged them for a 10-piece format that evoked tent-show-era New Orleans. (The ensemble was, as indicated in the program notes, assembled in the image of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band.) As experienced on April 9, this collaboration was a very good idea, expertly executed.

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