I would consider myself a casual fan of both Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis, but I can't say I've ever longed to hear them work together. It's not exactly the first duet pairing you might think of; they're two great tastes, but you wouldn't think they'd taste great together. Or, to take the Reese's metaphor a bit further, it's a collaboration that sounds less like peanut butter and chocolate, and more like peanut butter and pickle relish.
However, the resulting concert, as heard on the Two Men With The Blues CD and the cumbersomely-titled DVD Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis: Live From Jazz At Lincoln Center, New York City, is something of an unexpected treat. It's a little bit of a stunt, sure, but it's fun all the same, as the jazz guru and the country legend meet in the ideological middle and play some blues.
Backed by an impressive ensemble of (mostly Marsalis) players, in front of an audience at the Jazz At Lincoln Center venue overlooking New York City's Columbus Ciricle, Nelson and Marsalis give a laid-back, engaging performance (a pair of them, actually--the DVD is assembled from two shows over two nights). The songbook is mostly comprised of wonderful standards, many of them reimagined by Marsalis' inventive arrangements, including a wistful "Georgia on My Mind," a melancholy "Don't' Get Around Much Anymore," a high-spirited "My Bucket's Got A Hole In It," and the energetic show closer, "Down By The Riverside."
The performances are well-shot, with enough coverage to get every musical moment and all of the byplay between the two legends as well as their impressive work on the sparkling trumpet and beat-up old acoustic guitar. The performance is interspersed with brief documentary-style vignettes, interviewing Marsalis and Nelson and showing them in rehearsal; these are interesting, but a bit of a diversion from the main event.