Did music really use to be less complicated, or does it just seem that way? Maybe it's merely that life used to be less complicated, and music is simply a mirror of its times. Or something like that. Whatever the case, Two Men with the Blues was recorded live at Rose Hall in New York's Lincoln Center over two nights in January 2007, but it feels like an artifact from another age.
Before music splintered into a thousand microgenres, the distance between jazz, R&B, and even country could be easily traveled by a skillful ensemble such as this one. Whether on a timeless ballad such as "Stardust" or "Georgia on My Mind," big-bellied blues such as "Caldonia" or Willie Nelson's own "Night Life" or fleet-footed foxtrot "That's All," the chemistry between Nelson (with longtime harmonica sideman Mickey Raphael in tow) and Wynton Marsalis's four-man combo is obvious and contagious. These songs have been done a dozen times before, but few things make the modern world melt away better or more completely than listening to Nelson scratching away at his acoustic guitar or Marsalis's tastefully swinging trumpet work. With apologies to Elvis Costello (though he would surely agree), Nelson and Marsalis are both consummate men out of time. <