The Crosby, Stills & Nash Songbook: Concert Review

Crosby Stills Nash Songbook Concert 2 - H - 2013
Paul Familetti
CSN's beloved songs were delivered in startling new jazz arrangements in this revelatory concert.

The venerable rock trio performs their greatest hits with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Crosby, Stills & Nash were literally jazzed for their performance with Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on Friday night. The venerable rock band has been performing together for over four decades, and it’s not surprising that over the years a certain rote quality might have settled in. But delivering a program called The Crosby, Stills & Nash Songbook featuring their greatest hits as newly arranged by various members of the JALC, they demonstrated a giddy enthusiasm.

“This is like playing with the bigger kids,” gushed Crosby at one point about this musical high-wire act, the latest in an annual series of benefit concerts in which the orchestra collaborates with notable pop/rock performers. As with last year’s show with Paul Simon, the evening proved revelatory.

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The rockers were well-dressed for the formal occasion, all dressed in sharp black suits. “If you laugh at our suits, you’re getting thrown out of here,” joked Nash. “My first pair of grown-up shoes,” added Crosby. “They have laces and everything.”

From the brassy fanfare that preceded the opening “Military Madness” to Walter Blanding’s gorgeous tenor sax solo on the closing “Teach Your Children,” the music was presented in startling new versions that showcased the orchestra’s stellar playing as well as the trio’s still impressive harmonies.

The songs were frequently provided with new tempos and infused with influences including big-band swing and New Orleans, Latin, and avant-garde jazz, among others. ”Wind on the Water/Critical Mass” featured a baroque music–style into that led into a complex, multi-part suite. “Cathedral” featured a bluesy sultriness, while the anti-war “Military Madness” included military-style drumming and a coda in which the horn section played “Taps.”

The complexity of the arrangements didn’t seem to faze the trio, who seamlessly blended in with the orchestra. “Here’s where it gets really interesting,” announced Stills before an epic version of “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” that featured Latin rhythms and a trumpet solo by Marsalis, with Stills responding in kind with a dazzling, flamenco-style acoustic guitar solo. “Déjà vu,” which Crosby introduced by saying “We’re gonna get weird now,” became a free-jazz excursion that was eventually anchored by a harmonica solo by Nash. A rollicking “Love the One You’re With” featured the horn section punching out the melody in joyful fashion.

Although they don’t quite hit the high notes they used to, Nash and Crosby still deliver beautiful harmonies, as particularly demonstrated by a beautiful rendition of “Guinevere” in which they were accompanied solely by Marsalis on muted trumpet.

“We need you to sing, not just rattle your jewelry,” said Crosby to the well-heeled crowd before launching into the final number, “Teach Your Children.” The audience obliged, happily delivering the verses when prompted. After the musicians left the stage and it was clear that there would be no encore, the crowd stayed on their feet and cheered for minutes until the trio returned. “We don’t have any more tunes,” said Crosby forlornly, but Marsalis and a few members of the horn section eventually returned to lead them off the stage in a rollicking New Orleans-style march.

Set List:

Military Madness

Long Time Gone

Hopelessly Hoping

Marrakesh Express

Southern Cross

Wind on the Water/Critical Mass

Suite Judy Blue Eyes



Déjà vu

Love the One You’re With

Teach Your Children

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