Wynton Marsalis & Willie Nelson: Two Men with the Blues

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Wynton Marsalis & Willie Nelson. Two Men with the Blues (Blue Note, 2008)

Cross-genre musical projects (e.g., symphonic rock music, Sting's Blue Turtles albums, various jazz "remixed" CDs) are often hit-or-miss affairs, whether from ego issues or just because some combinations--whether for idiomatic or idiosyncratic reasons--just don't mesh well. Wynton Marsalis and Willie Nelson have none of those problems, and their collaboration is a solid hit.

Wynton & Willie jammed on some classic songs during two evenings last January at Lincoln Center, and Blue Note was there to record it all. The result is this disc of jazz and blues standards, ranging from "Basin Street Blues" and "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It" to "Stardust" and "Georgia on My Mind." (I recommend purchasing this CD at Borders, as their version contains two bonus tracks, "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and "Sweet Georgia Brown.")

Two Men with the Blues is a delightfully laid-back session, with enough fire in the up-tempo portions to keep it engaging. Until the DVD arrives (sometime this fall?) I can't say for certain that Wynton & Willie were enjoying themselves on stage, but it sure sounds as if they were. Their performance on Leno last week (The Tonight Show, Thursday July 10th) was well worth watching...what I saw of it, anyway. (My POS DVR stopped recording halfway through "Bright Lights, Big City." Thanks, Comcast, for not knowing the stop times of the programs you broadcast!) [Thankfully, YouTube has the video here.]

The most fascinating aspect of Wynton & Willie's collaboration--aside from the sheer pleasure of listening to two masters making magic together--is how the band is "tight but loose" simultaneously. Their musical rapport is neither forced nor lackadaisical, but consistently finds that sweet spot where their give-and-take is a joy to hear.

This CD is contagiously fun, and one that deserves to reach a broad audience. Give it a listen!


The Willie and Wynton website is here

A teaser clip for the upcoming DVD is here

Nate Chinen wrote about the first concert's "somewhat tentative start" in "Just a Couple of Guys Dressed in the Blues" at the NYT

Will Layman's review at PopMatters observes that "the concert pits Marsalis's extraordinary jazz group against Nelson's gorgeously laconic sense of time. The result is close to sublime. [...] Marsalis and company sound natural, loose, gritty, and certainly inspired."

Willie Nelson sang with Wynton and the LCJO last week at the Hollywood Bowl; the LA Times review is here

According to the JALC website, Wynton and Willie are getting together for a one-night reprise in the Rose Theatre on 9 February 2009

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on July 15, 2008 5:15 PM.

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