RICK’S PICKS: Paul Simon: Live In New York City (Concord Music) / Bassist: Bathiki Kumalo
The Album: Paul Simon’s long discography, now in its sixth decade, has been peppered with a handful of live albums and at least a half-dozen compilations of greatest hits and best of’s. Do we need another retrospective of his song catalog? While it might seem a bit redundant for Simon to again release much of the material we’ve heard many times before, this CD/DVD package is actually quite refreshing.
Clearly, Simon wants to offer a second shot at his most recent material, which has been largely overlooked by the public; a full four songs from his latest studio album So Beautiful Or So What are included here. Whether or not it is Simon’s intent for his new work to be compared with his older, more familiar songs, the formula succeeds. With Live In New York City we are reminded that as a songwriter, Paul Simon can turn a phrase like few others, and his new material is some of his best ever. As is always the case, the musicians on hand to deliver his message, be it old songs or new, do it with astonishing chops and creativity. The 2-CD / 1-DVD package captures rhymin’ Simon and his band inside the beautiful walls of Manhattan’s Webster Hall, and the whole experience is one nice intimate affair, perhaps even more so in contrast to the epic Central Park masses of two of his previous live albums.
The Bassist: Bathiki Kumalo first hooked up with Paul Simon during the recording of the artist’s landmark Graceland album, and most fans know that it was Kumalo who turned a globeful of heads with a single 4-bar bass lick on “You Can Call Me Al” back in ’86. Bathiki has been by Simon’s side often in the 25-plus years since Graceland, and for good reason: Paul’s music is stylistically all over the map, and Kumalo navigates that territory with authority and brilliance. Primarily playing his 5-string on most of Live In New York City, Kumalo also throws in his 4-string fretless Fodera on a few tunes and even breaks out his Kala U-Bass for one.
Best Tracks: “Crazy Love, Vol. II”, “Rewrite”, “The Afterlife”, medley of “Kodachrome” and “Gone At Last”