Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis – Two Men With The Blues (2008)

FrontCover1.jpgTwo Men with the Blues is a live album by Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis. It was released on July 8, 2008 by Blue Note and sold 22,000 copies in it first week of release. It was recorded on January 12–13, 2007, at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City.

The album held the number one position in the Billboard Jazz Albums chart for four weeks. It spent a total of 67 weeks on that chart. It peaked at number 20 on both the Billboard 200 and the Billboard Digital Albums charts, spending eight weeks and one week on the charts respectively. (by wikipedia)

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 of Willie, who never found a border he couldn’t blur.

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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 is Marsalis’ band — pianist Dan Nimmer, drummer Ali Jackson, bassist Carlos Henríquez, and saxophonist Walter 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, feelings that are palpable as soon as the album kicks off with a loose yet nimble reading of Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City.” It’s a subtle arrangement that doesn’t draw attention to its unique touches, something that’s also true of the flashier take on Hank Williams’ “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It,” which lurches and careens like a New Orleans marching band, coming to a highlight when Marsalis throws in a few lines from “Keep on Knockin'” for good measure.

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These sly spins on standards, along with a jump blues reworking of Merle Travis’ “That’s All” (first heard on a Willie Nelson record back in 1969), are balanced by numbers that are perhaps a bit more expected but are no less delightful, as “Night Life” is turned into a showcase for Wynton and the bandmembers sound as good skipping through “Caldonia” as they do laying back on “Basin Street Blues.” It’s music that flows so easily it’s perhaps easy to take for granted, but Two Men with the Blues is truly something special, as it captures two masters enjoying their common ground while spurring each other to hear old sounds in new ways. It’s a flat-out joy. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

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Personnel:
Walter Blanding (saxophone)
Carlos Henriquez (bass)
Ali Jackson (drums)
Wynton Marsalis (trumpet, vocals)
Willie Nelson (vocals, guitar)
Dan Nimmer (piano)
Mickey Raphael (harmonica)

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Tracklist:
01. Bright Lights, Big City (Reed) 5.21
02. Night Life (Nelson) 5.44
03. Caldonia (Moore) 3.26
04. Stardust (Carmichael) 5.09
05. Basin Street Blues (Williams) 4.57
06. Georgia On My Mind (Carmichael/Gorrell) 4.41
07. Rainy Day Blues (Nelson) 5.44
08. My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It (Williams) 4.57
09. Ain’t Nobody’s Business (Grainger/Robbins) 7.28
10. That’s All (Travis) 6.08

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I would like to dedicate this entry to greygoose … a real enthusiastic fan of Willie Nelson

Wynton Marsalis – Christmas Jazz Jam (2009)

FrontCover1Christmas Jazz Jam is a Christmas album by Wynton Marsalis that was released in 2009 by Compass Productions. Musicians on the album include Wessell Anderson on alto saxophone, Vincent Gardner and Wycliffe Gordon on trombone, Victor Goines on saxophone and clarinet, and Herlin Riley on drums.

In 2009 the album reached peak positions of number six on Billboard’s Jazz Albums chart, number nine on the Top Holiday Albums chart, and number nineteen on the Top Independent Albums chart. In 2010 the album reached number 125 on the Billboard 200.

Christmas Jazz Jam marked Marsalis’ first holiday album in twenty years. For the album, Marsalis assembled a group of ten musicians to perform uncredited arrangements of twelve holiday standards. Following “Mary Had a Baby” are traditional New Orleans jazz-style renditions of “Jingle Bells” (James Pierpont) and “Blue Christmas” (Billy Hayes, Jay W. Johnson)

In 2009 Christmas Jazz Jam reached peak positions of number six on Billboard’s Jazz Albums chart, number nine on the Top Holiday Albums chart, and number nineteen on the Top Independent Albums chart. In 2010 the album reached number 125 on the Billboard 200. (by wikipedia)

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The trumpeter for all seasons fields a capable 10-piece group, which essays a program of the usual fare with a few surprises. Musical styles deftly rendered include New Orleans trad (“Jingle Bells,” “Blue Christmas”), calypso (“Rudolph”), Duke Ellington(“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “Little Town of Bethlehem”), bracing renditions of spirituals (“Mary Had a Baby,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain”) and a bluesy “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The uncredited arrangements are smart yet not ostentatious; they don’t overshadow the soloists. Marsalis is certainly a trumpeter for this season. (Kirk Silsbee, Los Angeles Times: awarded the album three of four stars

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Personnel:
Wessell Anderson (saxophone)
Walter Blanding (saxophone)
Vincent Gardner (trombone)
Victor Goines (saxophone, clarinet)
Wycliffe Gordon (trombone, tuba)
Roberta Gumbel (vocals)
Wynton Marsalis (trumpet)
Paul Nedzela (saxophone, clarinet)
Dan Nimmer (piano)
Herlin Riley (drums)
Don Vappie (banjo, guitar, vocals)
Reginald Veal (bass)

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Tracklist:
01. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (Coots/Gillespie) 4.50
02. Mary Had A Baby (Traditional) 4.03
03. Jingle Bells (Pierpont) 4.43
04.  Blue Christmas (Hayes/Johnson) 5.24
05. Go Tell It On The Mountain (Work, Jr.) 7.08
06. O Christmas Tree (Anschütz) 7.25
07. O Little Town Of Bethlehem (Brooks) 7.21
08. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (Marks) 6.05
09. The Christmas Song (Tormé/Wells) 5.30
10. Good King Wenceslas (Helmore(Neale) 6.49
11. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (Martin/Blane) 7.08
12. Greensleeves (Traditional) 2.05

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