Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Wynton Marsalis Septet

  • United We Swing: Best of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Galas [Blue Engine, 2018] A-

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United We Swing: Best of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Galas [Blue Engine, 2018]
The trumpeter-bureaucrat didn't just tamp down his jazz chauvinism as such pop titans as Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson and roots flamekeepers as the Blind Boys of Alabama and Tedeschi-Trucks paid their respects at these 2003-2007 fund-raisers. He put his smarts, chops, and combo at the full service of artistes from Jimmy Buffett to Audra Macdonald. There's not much guitar and, you guessed it, no rapping whatsoever. But just about every song is enlarged. Dylan negotiates the horns that elaborate "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" like the born hipster he is. Lyle Lovett is a hipster too. Macdonald was made for "Creole Love Call" as she was for little else. Ray Charles is alive, which was all it ever took. James Taylor and John Mayer put their all into self-penned songs about what dicks they are. "Are You Gonna Go My Way" is transformed into nine-tenths of the freedom song Lenny Kravitz dreamt it could be. Derek Trucks's "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" solo very nearly obliterates that feat. And to top off his show of shows, Marsalis sings a song of his own--sans Auto-Tune, you bet. A-