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Willie Nelson has the final word on this DVD, heard over the closing credits, and he nails it: "You know, labels were invented to sell the music. You had to name it before you can sell it. But some music encompasses it all and what do you call that? That's what I like to play."
Nelson and Wynton Marsalis were the perfect odd couple of 2008, the CD made of their concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center a surprisingly satisfying and deservedly acclaimed album. The heart of this DVD is that same concert music, illuminated with rehearsal clips and reflections on the concert and on each other by the two principals. As the best such films do, it enhances the music. And it is very special music, a real slice of Americana that, as Nelson's characterization suggests, transcends market genres and easy labels. Marsalis calls it blues, Nelson calls it jazz, but comments along the way suggest everything from country and folk to gospel and traditional New Orleans.
Call it what you will, the music is all perfectly calibrated to swing, whether fleetly racing on "That's All" or settling into a slow heartbeat on "Georgia On My Mind." Marsalis' responsibility for setting those apropos tempos is revealed in rehearsal shots that show him laying down the beat and rhythmic feel by clapping and scatting for the band. The trumpeter also comments on how "unpredictable" Nelson's guitar solos are, and we see him and other band members silently laughing as they watch and listen on stage to the bent notes and odd chords wrung from his battered, gouged guitar. One of the delights of this concert is Nelson and his harmonica player Mickey Raphael easing right into the jazz improvising and saxophonist Walter Blanding and pianist Dan Nimmer joyously going with the flow as if they were at a hip hoedown.
Tracks: Rainy Day Blues; Georgia On My Mind; Bright Lights, Big City; Basin Street Blues; Caldonia; Night Life; Stardust; My Bucket's Got A Hole In It; Ain't Nobody's Business; Don't Get Around Much Anymore; Sweet Georgia Brown; That's All; Down By The Riverside.
Production Notes: 85 minutes. Recorded January 2007 at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Extras: Interviews.
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.