11 Songs, 1 Hour 1 Minute

EDITORS’ NOTES

At first, the pairing of Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis seems unlikely. Not because they come from completely different genres, but because they represent totally different philosophies. Nelson has spent his career reformatting the boundaries of country music, while Marsalis has devoted his life to re-instilling the traditional values of jazz. Their common ground here is a love for naturalistic playing, and of course, as evinced by the title, the blues. Nelson’s affinity for jazz has been known since his early years, and it’s easy to see why Marsalis would appreciate the older man’s clever phrasing, and understated sense of swing. Both these guys care about the song, especially the melody. These are freest when dealing with a hallowed tune, which is why the best moments on the album come in the form of ancient hits like “Ain’t Nobody’s Business,” “Georgia On My Mind” and “Stardust,” all of which are reborn in this setting. Nelson has performed “Night Life” thousands of times in his career, but here the song becomes an ideal meeting ground, and Marsalis’s gutsy, lonely solo opens new corridors in a much-traveled song.

EDITORS’ NOTES

At first, the pairing of Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis seems unlikely. Not because they come from completely different genres, but because they represent totally different philosophies. Nelson has spent his career reformatting the boundaries of country music, while Marsalis has devoted his life to re-instilling the traditional values of jazz. Their common ground here is a love for naturalistic playing, and of course, as evinced by the title, the blues. Nelson’s affinity for jazz has been known since his early years, and it’s easy to see why Marsalis would appreciate the older man’s clever phrasing, and understated sense of swing. Both these guys care about the song, especially the melody. These are freest when dealing with a hallowed tune, which is why the best moments on the album come in the form of ancient hits like “Ain’t Nobody’s Business,” “Georgia On My Mind” and “Stardust,” all of which are reborn in this setting. Nelson has performed “Night Life” thousands of times in his career, but here the song becomes an ideal meeting ground, and Marsalis’s gutsy, lonely solo opens new corridors in a much-traveled song.

TITLE TIME
11

About Willie Nelson

Even before he became the Red Headed Stranger, Willie Nelson was already a Nashville songwriting legend, providing Patsy Cline with her 1961 signature tune, “Crazy.” But as a fledgling performer in his own right, the clean-cut honky-tonker’s humble approach and conversational croon was increasingly at odds with mainstream country music’s tilt toward variety-show glitz. Upon joining the post-hippie roots-music radicals taking over the Austin scene (and swearing off barbers forevermore), the Texas-born Nelson became an icon of the ’70s outlaw-country movement, favoring a stripped-down style that could both evoke desert-highway vistas (“On the Road Again”) and initiate the most intimate of conversations (“Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”). But Nelson’s brand of down-home simplicity shouldn’t be confused with dogmatic purism (he’s also no stranger to adult-contemporary crossovers, like his duet with Julio Iglesias, “To All the Girls I've Loved Before”). Rather, he’s always searching for the most direct route to the soul of a song, whether he’s elevating the country standard “Always on My Mind” to the realm of modern hymn, or bringing a wistful, lived-in wisdom to Great American Songbook perennials like “Georgia on My Mind.” In the 21st century, Nelson’s outlaw ethos has continued to manifest itself in all sorts of surprising ways: He’s become America’s most visible pro-marijuana activist and Snoop Dogg’s unlikeliest duet partner.

HOMETOWN
Abbott, TX
GENRE
Country
BORN
April 29, 1933

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