Out 3/23, United We Swing—the latest, live album from the Wynton Marsalis Septet—brings together a who's who of the 20th century's greatest musical artists. Artists like Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, and James Taylor all showed up to Jazz at Lincoln Center's 2003-2007 galas to perform with Wynton, take audiences on a veritable road trip through American music, and unite behind a good cause: raising money for JALC's education programs.
In honor of United We Swing's release, we thought we'd run down some behind-the-scenes trivia and surprising tidbits from the album.
1. The Last from a Legend
Ray Charles's performance of "I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town" at the 2003 Jazz at Lincoln Center spring gala was sadly his final live performance.
2. (Almost) an Anniversary for Dylan
Like all the artists who partook in the galas, Dylan chose his own repertoire. He performed his own "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" with the band in 2004, just one year shy of the song's 40th anniversary.
3. "From Another Planet"
During gala rehearsals, Charles bonded with Wynton over their shared of love of Louis Armstrong, with Charles joking that the trumpeter and vocalist was "from another planet."
4. Whole Lotta Silverware
Collectively, the guest artists on United We Swing have 94 Grammys to their names. (103, if you count Wynton's nine.)
5. A New Standard
James Taylor performs his own composition, "Mean Old Man," on the record, and you'd be forgiven for thinking it sounds like an old standard. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Taylor said writing the song "was a big accomplishment, because it's a sophisticated song and a throwback. Paul McCartney called me up and said that when he'd first heard it, he assumed it was Frank Loesser or Cole Porter. I was, of course, absolutely thrilled."
6. Slowhand's Extra Efforts
Gala producers recall Eric Clapton as one of most enthusiastic and diligent gala performers, showing up early to put in extra rehearsal time with Wynton and the band. He would also set the stage for a future gala performance by putting Wynton in touch with Derek Trucks, whose 2007 performance with partner-in-crime Susan Tedeschi is also featured on United We Swing.
7. Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship
Willie Nelson chose to play "Milk Cow Blues," a classic blues composition by left-handed slide guitarist Kokomo Arnold. The performance went so well that Nelson and Marsalis would later reunite for an entire collaborative album, Two Men with the Blues.
United We Swing is available for pre-order now, and 100% of the proceeds go toward Jazz at Lincoln Center's education initiatives, which introduce thousands of young students to jazz each year. Pick up this piece of American musical history and support a good cause today!