Repeatedly, it’s been proven that when an artist of high repute re-enters the studio to record fresh takes of their old songs they run the risk of detuning and devaluing what rendered the music appealing in the first place. An exception to this though may be this new set from Paul Simon, which brings together 10 of the songwriter’s personal favourites from a near-50-year solo catalogue, rolled out by an all-star cast of big-name musos from the fields of rock, jazz and classical.
Ambitiously arranged throughout, it’s a record that, on first spin, wins you over with its ever-flickering change in mood. From a sassier reading of 1973’s blueser “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor”, 1990’s “I Can’t Run But” arrives laden with lush strings and glides gracefully into the once country-tinged “How the Heart Approaches What It Yearns”, revived here as a swishy, brush-light ballad with Wynton Marsalis blowing muted trumpet lines around Simon’s gorgeously wistful vocal.
Joining members of the Lincoln Jazz Orchestra, Marsalis also fronts maybe the album’s most bold and humorous offering, a full-blown, second line-style stomp through “Pigs, Sheep and Wolves”, swamped with sax, raspy trombones and a fat tuba bass line. It’s a loud, jubilant affair ahead of the run of ballads in “The Teacher”, a tender, Bill Frisell-driven “Darling Lorraine” and a dramatic version of 1977’s “Some Folks’ Lives Roll Easy” featuring the great Joe Lovano and some minimal pluck and patter from Patitucci and DeJohnette that doesn’t disappoint.
In fact, the only thing that is disappointing here is the fact Simon has now retired from public performance, and we’ll never get to hear these “fresh perspectives” performed live.
One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor; Love; Can’t Run But; How the Heart Approaches What It Yearns; Pigs, Sheep and Wolves; Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog after the War; The Teacher; Darling Lorraine; Some Folks’ Lives Roll Easy; Questions for the Angels (44.00)
Simon (v, g, harm, pc); Joel Wenhardt; Sullivan Fortner (p); Nate Smith; Steve Gadd; Marion Felder; Jack DeJohnette (d); John Patitucci; Renaud Garcia-Fons (b); Jim Oblon; Bill Frisell; Odair Assad; Sergio Assad; Vincent Nguini; Mark Stuart (g); CJ Camerieri; Wynton Marsalis; Marcus Printup (t); Andy Snitzer; Walter Blanding; Joe Lovano (s); Dan Block (cl); Wycliffe Gordon (tb); Chris Crenshaw (tb); Herlin Riley; Edie Brickell; Jamey Haddad; Skip LaPlante (p); plus members of Ymusic string ensemble. NYC, 2018.