Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis--Two Men With the Blues

Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis

Two Men with the Blues

(Blue Note)

Did music really use to be less complicated, or does it just seem that way? Maybe it's just 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.

Some time before music splintered into a thousand different microgenres, the distance between jazz, R&B and even country could be easily traveled by a skillful ensemble like this one. Whether on a timeless ballad like "Stardust" or "Georgia on My Mind," big-bellied blues like "Caldonia" or 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 Marsalis's four-man combo is both obvious and contagious. These songs have all been done a thousand 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 trumpetwork. With apologies to Elvis Costello (though he would surely agree), Nelson and Marsalis are both consummate men out of time.

--Chris Gray

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