Blueswax 8
Reader Rating 8

Winton Marsalis and Willie Nelson
" Two Men With The Blues"
Blue Note

The Odd Couple? Not!, (08/13/08) Originally billed as "Willie Nelson Sings the Blues," the two-night gig in January at New York City's Jazz at Lincoln Center was much more than that, as it became a meeting between Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis, who found common ground in their love for the Blues. Fortunately, the tapes were rolling both nights and the results of this unusual collaboration is now available on Blue Note Records under the title Two Men With The Blues. The band is comprised of Nelson, Marsalis, and harmonica playerMickey Raphael, plus pianist Dan Nimmer, bassist Carlos Henriquez, drummer Ali Jackson, and saxophonist Walter Blanding.

The opener, Jimmy Reed's "Bright Lights Big City," is a hoot as Marsalis' Jazz band is right at home with the honky-tonk locomotive click-clack. First up is a nice solo by Nelson's longtime harpist Raphael, followed by smart solos by Marsalis, Blanding, Nimmer, and Willie's guitar. Nelson's "Night Life" is treated with an opening chorus by Marsalis and slowly boils to a heated crescendo with additional hot licks coming from Wynton's trumpet, and a sweet and jazzy guitar segment from Nelson. As John Mayall once aptly called his music Jazz-Blues Fusion, this recording covers multiple genres, but be certain that this is without any fusion music, but this cool mix of Jazz and Blues here seems like what Willie and Wynton truly enjoy to perform together. This seemingly unlikely collaboration was supposedly sparked by Marsalis' belief that the Blues should be our national anthem. And it sure feels like both Willie and Wynton have crafted a marvelous meld where Blues meets Jazz, as it all works well here!

Bob Putignano: