Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton, "Layla" (2011): One Track Mind

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After a desultory, red-light district blast of horns, the Wynton Marsalis-led Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra settles into this funereal rhythm, swaying from side to side as Eric Clapton rips off a few blues-simmered, heartfelt asides.

If you hadn’t checked the liner notes, the song itself — a signature moment for the guitarist as a member of Derek and the Dominos — would remain unrecognizable, almost 1:30 into the tune. It’s only when the band quiets itself for the initial verse — “what will you do when you get lonely,” Clapton sings, to a surprised round of applause from the New York audience — that “Layla” reveals itself.

Marsalis keeps the tempo of the band at lightly swinging dirge throughout, adding a crepuscular mystery to the track, and neatly reframing the misery in Clapton’s anguished cries for a withheld love. Still, as intriguing as this new update is, like the lilting unplugged version from a while back, “Layla” will always feel incomplete without Jim Gordon’s emotionally revealing, agelessly engaging coda.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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