Blue Engine Records makes the most memorable performances from Jazz at Lincoln Center’s historic gala concerts available for the first time with the release of United We Swing: Best of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Galas. The album—which features some of the 20th century’s biggest musical stars, including Blind Boys of Alabama, Jimmy Buffett, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Lenny Kravitz, John Legend, Lyle Lovett, John Mayer, Audra McDonald, Natalie Merchant, Willie Nelson, Carrie Smith, James Taylor, and Susan Tedeschi, and Derek Trucks— will be available on vinyl, CD, and all download and streaming platforms on March 23, 2018. United We Swing: Best of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Galas is available for pre-order now on store.jazz.org and Amazon.com.
Recorded between 2003 and 2007, United We Swing finds an unparalleled array of music talent that collectively boasts 94 Grammy Awards joining Jazz at Lincoln Center Managing and Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis (a nine-time Grammy Award winner himself) and some of the world’s top jazz musicians to perform blues-inflected versions of iconic American repertoire. Their backgrounds and musical stylings are diverse, but together these artists raise their voices to highlight jazz’s importance to America’s cultural heritage and to remind us that, even in divided times, music can unite us all.
“On this recording and in these concerts, we came together to affirm common roots, to celebrate the diversity of our creativity, and to pass the reality of our best achievements on to our kids,” said Marsalis. “We were, and are, United in Swing.”
Those one-night-only, live performances have never been released before. They include Lenny Kravitz performing Wynton Marsalis’s hypnotizing, New Orleans-inflected arrangement of Kravitz’ own song, “Are You Gonna Go My Way”; Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks uniting for a stirring, infectious take on Civil Rights anthem “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free”; Bob Dylan adding harmonica licks to a deeply felt, in-the-pocket rendition of “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”; and Ray Charles taking the stage for one of his final performances to play “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town.”
Marsalis and his group go head-to-head with some of music’s most legendary figures, like Willie Nelson and Carrie Smith, as well as modern standard-bearers like John Mayer and John Legend. Performances such as Natalie Merchant’s slow-burning “The Worst Thing” and Lyle Lovett’s jaunty “My Baby Don’t Tolerate” reveal how jazz and the blues unite all musicians regardless of their genre, age, or birthplace.
The concerts from which these performances are culled were produced by Jazz at Lincoln Center. These galas have become an annual tradition, and are the organization’s annual signature fundraiser for its education programs. In keeping with those concerts, United We Swing is dedicated to a great cause: 100% of the album’s proceeds will go toward introducing thousands of children from around the world to jazz, American’s greatest homegrown art form.
Along with revealing music’s power to unite us, no matter where we call home, these once-in-a-lifetime recordings offer an exhilarating snapshot of the creative process: the performances were only briefly rehearsed before being performed and captured in front of a live audience in the heart of New York City.