Last year Eric Clapton and Wynton Marsalis teamed up to release a CD/DVD of two shows they played together. I remember seeing the product at the airport - I was sceptical. But the clips I watched on YouTube dismissed that early scepticism.
Tomorrow night, Sky's Arts Channel will premiere local coverage of Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton Play the Blues. I thoroughly enjoyed the concert. And between Sky and Warners I've been given the chance to offer FIVE lucky readers to win a copy of the CD/DVD. So if you're still sceptical - or think this would not be your cup of tea - tune in from tomorrow night on Sky to catch the performance.
Here's where I'm at with these guys. Years ago I loved everything Eric Clapton did and thought Wynton Marsalis was a bit bogus. Now it's probably the reverse - I've warmed to Wynton with time. And Clapton, for a while there, left me cold...somehow what might seem an unlikely match really works. And good on them both - and the stunning supporting cast of side players for making this happen.
The concert features a programme that was chosen by Clapton, arranged by Marsalis. The lineup is a replication of the classic King Oliver Creole Jazz Band - with the additions of guitar and piano. The plan was for Wynton and Eric to find some common ground between the jazz and blues they have respectively mined and served up, often in a watered-down way.
I used to think of Marsalis as a stiff, humourless jazz academic. A talent, to be sure, but a technician; one lacking any real soul to his playing. I don't think that at all. And not just lately. His Black Codes (From the Underground) is a killer record. And in his huge and varied output he's made some wonderful music, soundtracks, collaborations, live records...
I used to think Clapton was the great guitar player. And then I started listening to other guitar players. Clapton - at his best - was fine. Sure. And there is some wonderful music that still stands up - but he's been resting on his laurels; he's been incredibly lazy. That said, recent years suggest he's aware, in part, that there's a problem. He's been revisiting his past, reviving the wonderful music of Cream and Derek & The Dominos, reconnecting with old sparring partner Jeff Beck, he's been doing the one thing he hadn't done for a very long time: trying.
And one thing that struck me, watching Wynton and Eric lead a killer band through some wonderful tunes, was that both players have been responsible for educating so many listeners when it comes to versions of the blues and jazz.
Marsalis explains as the concert starts that the plan was to find the middle ground in their music and the music that inspired them. So we hear a version of jump blues and New Orleans soul and jazz that leaves space to include some stinging lead guitar lines. Clapton's playing smoulders - he's never too desperate to burn and he plays with taste and restraint. But there's passion. Marsalis is sublime; here he is so very much a supporting player. And he knows how to serve the songs.
There are some wonderful pieces - and Layla is reworked as a New Orleans dirge, it drags and lurches in the most wonderful ways. It feels like a funeral piece, dark and haunting; ultimately haunted - so much better than the cappuccino rewrite that was served up for Clapton's Unplugged album.
The show (DVD) features glimpses of the rehearsals and contextual asides explaining the music.
It's a history lesson in many ways - and so it would stand up/be of interest to anyone who is interested in this wonderful music; it's almost irrelevant that it happens to be Clapton and Marsalis at the helm.
But I say that, and in fact, for me, this performance just confirmed my recent interest in some of what Eric is doing (playing) these days. And made me want to carry on discovering the best of what Wynton has to offer. And he really has offered the world of music so much.
So, does this sound like a live CD/DVD that you'd like to win? Leave a comment below. The best five - those keenest - will win a copy of the show care of Sky and Warners. And thanks to them for a great prize.