Willie’s on to something with this live-at-Lincoln Center jazz collab
Before this record, Willie Nelson had done collaborations in nearly every musical idiom—except the one that gives true context to the off-beat jazz phrasing he’s used throughout his career. This performance with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis feels like a long-overdue summit meeting. These renditions of classics—including some of Willie’s own—sound completely natural; even Willie’s old nylon-string guitar Trigger fits right in, though when he and Wynton get to jumpin’ and jivin’ on “Caldonia,” it makes you wonder how the music might’ve sounded had Willie picked up something with metal strings. As it is, you can envision him finger-popping while bassist Carlos Henriquez and Nelson harmonica player Mickey Raphael take their turns and Marsalis rips his solo. Marsalis’ slurs and squeaks on “Stardust” send the song into another dimension; “Georgia on My Mind” and “Night Life” are also re-energized in this Big Easy milieu, and “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” must’ve had the Jazz at Lincoln Center audience dancing in the aisles.