In the Blue Light
On the cusp of his 77th birthday, Paul Simon is firmly in looking-back mode: He billed his 2018 tour as a farewell, and his 14th solo album is an elegiac reimagining of 10 songs from throughout his five-decade post-Simon & Garfunkel career. Far from a greatest-hits rehash, the best-known tracks here are probably “Can’t Run But” from 1990’s The Rhythm of the Saints and 1983’s “René and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War.” But even completists may not recognize these at first listen. Recast largely as haunting (or haunted) jazz compositions, with assists from veteran musicians such as guitarist Bill Frisell and trumpet player Wynton Marsalis, the result is both valedictory and revelatory. Yes, the collection surfaces deserving songs that may have fallen through the cracks of Simon’s sprawling discography, but the point of the exercise is the way his new arrangements capture and deconstruct the spirit of the originals, with the benefit of critical distance and having made peace with the notion of winding down.