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World Music CD Reviews North American

Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis

By Ernest Barteldes
Published July 18, 2008

Two Men With The Blues
Blue Note

Although Willie Nelson has done his share of collaborations throughout his career, on paper it would seem remote at best that he’d ever team up with Wynton Marsalis for an entire disc. On this incredibly loose live recording, they tear through a selection of blues-inflected standards, kicking off with an uptempo version of “Bright Lights, Big City,” later tapping the jump blues nugget “Caldonia,” both of which feature hot solos from the leaders as well as the small band (made up of Marsalis’s working quartet and Nelson’s harmonica player Mickey Raphael). Nelson also takes the opportunity to revisit a few signature tunes, including “Georgia On My Mind” and “Stardust,” played here with a heavy emphasis on musicianship on the former, Marsalis plays against Nelson’s vocals, which generates thunderous applause from the audience. Listeners might get goose bumps from Nelson’s “Night Life,” mostly thanks to Marsalis’ dirty-sounding solo during the intro, played solely with bassist Carlos Henriquez.