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Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis: Live From Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC

Jerry D'Souza By

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class="f-left"width=150 height=208 > Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis
Live From Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC
Eagle Rock Entertainment

Singer Willie Nelson, country music outlaw, and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, jazz music ideologist, may well have seemed strange bedfellows when it came to performing together. This DVD of their concerts at the Lincoln Center perishes that notion.

Nelson has long been a singer without fetters. He interprets songs uniquely, his phrasing drawing every little emotion out of a word. Jazz may not have come his way, but that did not stop him from getting right into the groove with Marsalis and his band. He sings, as always, with a country twang and a low register drawl that almost dips into spoken word.

In one of the interviews that intersect the performances, Marsalis says that all music comes from the blues and demonstrates the rhythmic patterns to show how. His analysis is sound and he moves that into his arrangements, core to making the collaboration successful.

Marsalis's band comprising Dan Nimmer (piano), Carlos Henriquez (bass), Ali Jackson Jr. (drums) and Walter Blanding (tenor and soprano saxophones) is spontaneous in its execution. But the big surprise is Mickey Raphael (harmonica), who has long worked with Nelson. He references his playing with a resolute understanding of the idiom adding an edginess that jumps up from the guts.

Both country and jazz standards went into the programme filmed over two nights at the Allen Room of the Frederick P. Rose Hall. The two streams flow side by side and converge, without losing their impact.

"Georgia On My Mind" is a slow blues with Nimmer lighting the first glow on the piano. Nelson takes it down a country road but his timing fits right into the deliberate blues groove. If there was any doubt about Nelson's ability to get into a jazz frame, it is dispelled by "Basin street Blues." His interpretation and his sense of time and phrase are just delightful. Two blues tunes, two approaches, both successful in their adaptation, show how musical genres can be assimilated successfully.

Marsalis and Nelson have fun singing on "Ain't Nobody's Business" and on the country gospel "That's All." By the time "Down By The Riverside" comes around, the whole group has created a happy, exhilarating atmosphere.

This was an exceptional event. It worked because both Marsalis and Nelson were willing to look beyond the obvious—and they had a band who felt that wholeheartedly as well.

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.

Personnel: Willie Nelson: guitar; Wynton Marsalis: trumpet; Mickey Raphael: harmonica; Dan Nimmer: piano; Carlos Henriquez: bass; Ali Jackson: drums; Walter Blanding: saxophone.

Production Notes: 85 minutes. Recorded: January 12 & 13, 2007.

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