- Last Updated: 12:47 AM, April 22, 2012
- Posted: 10:12 PM, April 20, 2012
PAUL SIMON & WYNTON MARSALIS
Throughout his long career, Paul Simon has bravely ventured into a wide variety of music. He’s got gospel, reggae, Afrobeat and Brazilian on his résumé. Jazz? Not till this week, when he played with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra at the Time Warner Center’s Rose Theater.
For audience members used to seeing Simon and his old partner Art Garfunkel, Thursday’s show it was an eye-opener. For everyone else, too.
Nearly all 14 songs on the set list featured new, sometimes radical arrangements.
The orchestra’s stupendous horn section, led by trumpeter Marsalis, was musically front and center. “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” featured a newly brassy swing; a lone trombone added plaintive riffs to “Slip Slidin’ Away”; and flutes provided delicate filigrees to “Further To Fly.”
Guest singer Aaron Neville, introduced by Simon as “the exquisite voice of New Orleans soul,” added falsetto harmonies to “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” before launching into a raucous cover of the Huey Smith oldie “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu.”
With Simon retreating to the rear of the stage, Neville took the lead on “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” his quavering vocals occasionally wrestling with the overly fussy arrangements.
Although there were quiet moments, such as Simon and Marsalis’ gorgeous duet on “The Sound of Silence,” the music was more often joyous. “That Was Your Mother” became a roaring zydeco rave-up, complete with accordion. “Kodachrome” featured a dazzling eruption of instrumental solos, while four percussionists gave “Late in the Evening” the propulsive energy of a late-night salsa party.
By the time the horns lifted “You Can Call Me Al” into even greater heights than usual, the crowd was on its feet.
“I’m having trouble finding the words,” a clearly emotional Marsalis said as he thanked Simon for volunteering his time at this week’s shows, which benefited Jazz at Lincoln Center.
“I just want to say that . . . this is the first time I’m hearing about the no money,” Simon drolly replied.