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Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis – Two Men With The Blues

Posted in: Music Guide, News | No Comments | Posted on by Mary Anne

History has proven that Willie Nelson will duet with pretty much anybody who comes along, and while this open-hearted open mind sometimes backfires, more often than not it results in some of his most sublime recordings. Two Men with the Blues, his album with jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis recorded over a two-night stand at Jazz at Lincoln Center on January 12 and 13, 2007, belongs in the latter category, standing as truly one of the most special records in either Nelson’s or Marsalis’ catalog. If the pair initially seem like an odd match, it’s only because Wynton long carried the reputation of a purist, somebody who was adamant against expanding the definition of jazz, which cast him as the opposite ofWillie, who never found a border he couldn’t blur. Marsalis mellowed over the years, but it’s also true that he and Nelson share a common background in jazz and the Great American Songbook, so this pairing plays naturally, providing equal measures of comfort and surprise. The engine for this music isMarsalis’ band — pianist Dan Nimmer, drummer Ali Jackson, bassist Carlos Henríquez, and saxophonistWalter Blanding — with Nelson bringing his harmonica player Mickey Raphael along, which is enough to give this a flavor that’s quite distinct from a typical Marsalis session without being foreign. Similarly, this isn’t quite alien territory for Nelson either, as the repertoire relies heavily on blues standards, including a pair of tunes he cut on his jazzy breakthrough, Stardust (the title track and “Georgia on My Mind”), plus he’s always veered close to jazz in his vocal and guitar phrasings. All this means that Two Men with the Blues has the warm comfort of a reunion and the freshness of a new collaboration.

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