Paul Simon, Wynton Marsalis join forces for three April concerts in New York City

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Paul Simon will by joined by Wynton Marsalis for a trio of shows beginning with Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 2012 annual gala concert on April 18th. Two public shows will follow on April 19-20, also at the Rose Theater in New York City.

As with Marsalis’ recent collaborations with Willie Nelson and Eric Clapton, songs from throughout Simon’s career will reportedly be arranged by Marsalis and members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. This will be the first time the trumpeter and legendary singer-songwriter have performed a full concert together.

Simon’s own band will also appear, along with special guest singer Aaron Neville on selected songs.

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Paul Simon, and on Marsalis’ work with Nelson and Clapton. Click through the headlines for complete reviews …

WYNTON MARSALIS AND ERIC CLAPTON, “LAYLA” (2011): 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.

PAUL SIMON – SO BEAUTIFUL OR SO WHAT (2011): A career-spanning, sometimes duskily ruminative, quirk-splashed triumph — simultaneously bold in its constructions and timeless in its themes. Simon has, with this long-awaited effort, found a way to combine the subtlety and directness of his early work with the complexity — both musical and emotional — of subsequent exotic sideroads like Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints. Yet the album was more than an interesting interpolation. There was a growing sense of mystery and of forebearance, away from the thrilling din of music. Simon, in his quietest moments, seemed to be engaged in a desperate fight against the gloaming. And not always winning.

WILLIE NELSON AND WYNTON MARSALIS – LIVE FROM JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER NYC (2008): Settling in with this project, you’re waiting for fresh, sharp angles — and they arrive, but not because the two principals ostensibly come from such different places. They share more common ground than either perhaps came in knowing. Nelson isn’t just a hillbilly picker: “He understands,” Wynton says of Willie at one point during the film, “the whole of the country.” Marsalis, meanwhile, has had great success moving outside the structure of jazz into a grinding blues. More particularly, they both believe, you can see, that it’s not about category so much as soul — in that elemental moment when your heart splashes inside your chest.

ONE TRACK MIND: PAUL SIMON, “ANOTHER GALAXY” (2006; 2011 reissue): You could be forgiven if you thought a collaboration between folk-rocker Paul Simon and arty outsider Brian Eno would never work. Those perfectly justifiable doubts made the sweeping successes of 2006’s Surprise, and this standout track, all the more, well, surprising. They found common ground on songs like “Another Galaxy” — a shivering electronic bed of music, overlaid with an otherworldly, echoing guitar and vocal — with the work coming in rushes so intense that they could only collaborate in week-long increments. In all, Surprise was recorded over 20 days spread out across two years. It was worth the effort, since the results ended up as the perfect amalgam of their two sensibilities — at once singer-songwriterly, but also sonically broader than anything Simon had yet done.

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