Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis - Two Men with the Blues

It has always amazed me that Willie Nelson will record with anyone no matter their background. This eclecticism is one of Willie's strengths but he has occasionally made questionable partnerships. However, the idea to combine Nelson with Wynton Marsalis was one of genius. These two men are living icons in their respective genres Country and Jazz. However, Willie is no stranger to singing the standards. His recently re-released "Stardust" which was originally recorded in 1978, shocked the Outlaw world when Willie recorded Ballads from the 30s and 40s. As for Marsalis he is a walking encyclopedia of music history, not just Jazz. So this pairing makes perfect sense. Two Men with the Blues was recorded in January of 2007 as part of a special series sponsored by Jazz at the Lincoln Center. It was recorded at the Allen Room on New York's Upper East Side. Joining the two legends were Marsalis' Quartet and Nelson's harmonica player, Mickey Raphael.

The results of the evening are best described in technical terms, un-freakin'-believable! In fact, technically I should probably add two or three more freakin's to aptly describe it. The album starts off with a Swing style rendition of "Bright Lights Big City." Swing Jazz and Blues are the base of most of the songs but the Harmonica gives the album a bit of country soul as well. However, the harmonica sounds natural with Jazz quartet as if it belongs permanently. Not that I think that Harmonica will replace the trumpet or saxophone anytime soon but in this case it adds a cool vibe. Willie's voice sounds great with these songs also. In fact, two of the songs "Stardust" and "Georgia on My Mind" were recorded by Willie on the above mentioned Stardust album. The album does have a bit of twang in it on the lighthearted cover of Hank Williams, "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It." The fact that these two Icons are able to be lighthearted and not tale themselves too seriously is one of the most endearing qualities about this project. For example, the vocal interplay between the two on "Ain't Nobody's Business" is classic. I am certainly glad they decided to release this project as a CD so I can get a feel for what the lucky few who were there got to experience. I suggest you do the same.

This Review also appears on Twangville

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