How to fill the seats at the Lincoln Center? Well, you Wynton Marsalis and his group connect once more with the icon eternal Willie Nelson (their collaboration in 2008 was widely acclaimed blues), add pop singer Norah Jones as a guest singer and gather all of the program by the catalogue of another Mining Legend: the end of Ray Charles.
Marsalis and company did exactly hit the viewfinder each time on this recording of the event. And what is more apparent, unfortunately, is that the vocal shortcomings of Nelson grow more evident every year. Some will say that his altered voice has gained in character that he has lost in the resistance and the beach, but my ears tell me otherwise. Nelson retains his recklessness and his rhythmic sense infallible, but his restitution feeble of I Love you so have difficulty is probably the lowest track here. And his partially a cappella Duet with Jones in time cryin' ' is in disrepair, not in a good way.
The blues and R & B numbers as Hallelujah I Just Love Her So, dusty My Heart and hand searches of Nelson to lose in and provides some welcome swagger; but it is also significant that the anonymous soul singer is called to provide the muscular support on shouters such as Busted and Hit the Road Jack. And while Jones is impeccable, as always and manages the jazz (Come Rain or Come Shine, Makin ' Whoopie) and country (here We Go Again) with style and panache, blues and soul are not really its strength, and she sits most of the R & B numbers in the program. His contribution on the ridiculous final had I Say is discrete to a fault, and it only reinforces the overall absence of the kind of vocal gross provided by Charles (and the Raelettes) on the original versions.
On the plu side, the Marsalis band offsets very adequately occasional dull song, navigate through the various corners and crannies of eclectic songbook of Charles with just the right mix of jazz and pop smarts. Some of these old generally were no doubt played half to death, but the band manages to breathe life to almost all the with arrangements ingenious and spirited play. Marsalis himself has never sounded better, and the Nelson Mickey Raphael long-time harmonica player also provides that a few accompanying perfectly integrated and fine solo work, where the listener might think, that he was a regular group. Thanks in large part to the instrumental work, there is an amount satisfactory to the value of entertainment on this release - even if major revelations are not coming.