Willie Nelson is getting awfully adventurous as he gets on
in years. The red headed stranger has always been known for pushing
the envelope and trying new things and it seems there is nothing he
won't try, no one he won't work with. It was a bit of a shock when
news of his latest record with jazz great Wynton Marsalis was
leaked, but listening to the record, it seems to make as much sense
as anything Willie's ever done. The record was recorded live in winter
2007 at the Lincoln Center in New York
Marsalis mostly puts aside the meandering tone of jazz for most of
the album, instead falling back on the great Southern blues tradition;
his trumpet playing is phenomenal, as always, and his unique voice
is instantly recognizable, but the loose jazz has been shored up and
made more easily listenable (for those of us who aren't fans of the
meandering jazz sound). The backing band is top notch, featuring Ali
Jackson on drums, Carlos Henriquez on bass, and Dan
Nimmer on piano. They move through the collection of tunes effortlessly,
highlighting the brilliance of Marsalis' performance as well as creating
the perfect backing for Willie's smoky clear vocals. The set includes
some old standards, such as a lightly swinging version of "Bright
Lights, Big City" and a hot, jumping take on "Caldonia".
Willie's voice is clearer than it's been in years, it seems, and it
sounds as if he's loving the chance to play some of these old blues
tunes. The band slows it down and lets Willie croon his way through
"Stardust" before getting low for a trip down the "Basin
Street Blues", which features a really excellent trumpet solo.
Willie sounds even more amazing on the slow balladry of "Georgia
On My Mind", his voice shimmering with emotion and purity. The
band covers a bit of rockabilly ground with a Dixieland flavor on
"My Bucket's Got A Hole In It" before blasting through a
fiery version of the jazzy "That's All" to wrap the evening.
The Two Men With The Blues Live performance is also available
as a DVD, which I can only imagine would be incredible to watch. While
the recording is exceptional, being witness visually to the interplay
between these two impressive musicians must be even more amazing.
Maybe that'd be a good thing to add to the Christmas wish list.
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