Aftermath: Willie Nelson, Wynton Marsalis and Norah Jones at Jazz at Lincoln Center
|Photos by Frank Stewart/ Jazz at Lincoln Center|
For their second concert together Tuesday night, Marsalis and Nelson chose not to simply reproduce Two Men's material but instead explore the legacy of Ray Charles, cleverly sequencing the songs to tell the story of a love affair from beginning to end and beyond. The program began with "Hallelujah (Boy I Love Her So)," played with a New Orleans feel. Feeling comfortable with Marsalis' working quartet (plus harmonica player Mickey Raphael) behind him, Nelson improvised a few riffs on his battered acoustic guitar Trigger.
Dallas-raised Norah Jones then walked onstage sporting a strapless dress to duet with Nelson on "You Are My Sunshine," played almost unrecognizably with a Latinesque beat. Jones seemed quite at ease belting this standard - gone was her ballads' usual sweetness - and seemed to enjoy dirtying things a bit, while Marsalis contributed a mournful solo that contrasted with the tune's happiness.
One of the concert's highlights came with "Unchain My Heart," featuring extended solos from Raphael and drummer Ali Jackson. Shortly thereafter, the tempo shifted to a bolero-like beat that allowed Marsalis to exercise his creativity. Another great moment came with "Losin' Head," played at an almost funereal pace. Marsalis did a bone-tingling call-and-response with Nelson, who sang the lyrics with poignancy and drama.
The show ended with the up-tempo "That's All," the sole tune from Two Men With The Blues, which became a showcase for the band's undeniable talent - especially Jackson and Henriquez, who traded short solos for about four minutes. Saxophonist Walter Blanding, Jr. and pianist Dan Zimmer also shone throughout the night, elevating the music to greater creative heights.