Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis –
Two Men with the Blues

When a promo copy of Two Men with the Blues appeared in the mailbox, my first thought of the odd pairing was to wonder if Willie had fallen behind on his taxes again and in need of some quick cash. I’ll admit that I wasn’t too sure if this collaboration between Willie and Wynton would have much to offer the discerning listeners on the Bus. The CD has sat on the edge of my desk for several weeks, only getting a serious listen this past weekend.

Actually, the pairing of Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis isn’t as odd as it would first appear. Willie Nelson’s distinctive off-beat vocal phrasing has always had a swinging jazz feel to it. In fact, Willie’s repertoire over the years has included several jazz standards. Besides, country and jazz do have a common ancestor in the blues.

Two Men with the Blues was recorded during a two-night gig at Jazz at Lincoln Center, where Marsalis is the Artistic Director. Willie brought along his long-time sideman, harmonica player Mickey Raphael, and Marsalis was with his Jazz at Lincoln Center quartet. The CD appropriately kicks off with the jazzed-up honky-tonk of “Bright Lights, Big City” then flows flawlessly into Willie’s classic “Night Life.” Eight more standards round out the session.

Although Two Men with the Blues was recorded at a live concert, it is apparent that this was a well rehearsed effort. Given a little thought, it’s not surprising to hear Willie singing these great jazz standards, and Wynton Marsalis and his quartet fall right into Willie’s groove. My early concerns for this collaboration were unfounded. Willie and Wynton have overcome what could have been nothing more than a novelty record and produced an evocative hybrid.

Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis - Bright Lights, Big City.mp3

Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis - Caldonia.mp3

Artist: Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis
Title: Two Men with the Blues
Label: Blue Note
Release Date: July 8, 2008
Available from: purchase or download from Blue Note (includes a link to iTunes)
Or purchase at your local big box store.


Blogger Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Another score for Doper Willie. I'm going to get this one.

July 23, 2008 10:39 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

This one's already on my Wish List--thanks for the chance to preview it! It's selling briskly at my local Borders.

July 24, 2008 9:49 AM  
Anonymous dan said...

I agree, Ed. At first thought, this shouldn't work, but it does. Just goes to show how catholic music can be. Nice post.

July 26, 2008 7:10 PM  

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