WYNTON AND WILLIE at The Lincoln 2007 & JAZZ in Reading 2022

Norman Warwick finally hears


& JAZZ in Reading

In January 2007 I was still living in the UK chasing Americana and catching any live gigs I could by visiting artists such as Emmylou, John Prtine, listening to Bob Harris on Radio 2 rather than to Steve Bewick´´s Hot Biscuits. Jazz was only catch-all phrase for artists I liked such as those who had become well known beyond the genre, such as  Ella, Louis, Nat King Cole and Oscar Peterson. I´m not sure that I knew then what a new history and geography I would begin to learn about late in my fifties. I had, at that stage, never heard of Wynton Marsalis which is, I guess why I remained until now of his gigs. But how could I have missed the fact that he played a major event with Willie Nelson, who was and is American through and through.   And it was only through channel hopping that I learned about it,….fifteen years later !

You know how it is. There´s nothing any good on the telly for weeks and then all of a sudden there are two great music programmes pretty much overlapping on different channels. I know there´s catch-up, red buttons and i player to ensure we don´t miss anything, but by the time I´ve found my way round all that the programmes have usually finished or even been taken off the playback calendar.

However, I struggled with all those useless services because I had read in the morning paper of a concert that night on Sky Arts of a concert by Wynton Marsalis (left) and his ensemble with guest artist Willie Nelson.

The name of Marsalis had haunted me for a while, for reasons I will write of later, and Willie Nelson (right) is one my favourite song-writers with whom I had conducted a fondly-remembered interview half a life ago.

Surprised to read the concert was combining Wynton Marsalis and Willie Nelson I assumed it to have been a recent event. I would learn it was recorded back in 2007 but, whenever, it is simply beautiful. Taking place in the Allen Room of Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s palace to the great American art form, these concerts overlook the night-time traffic of midtown Manhattan. Cars and busses plough through the night, creating a red-and-white smear of light through the two-story wall of windows that form the backdrop for the stage.

Phil Wayman, writing in pop matters on line says that ´In front of that majestic urban scene, you expect to see the Wynton Marsalis Quintet, in their expensive suits, playing brass in front of a limousine of a rhythm section. You don’t expect to see a cowboy hat. Or a beat up acoustic guitar and a set of grey-white pigtails to the left and right of a snowy beard. And you don’t expect to see them together.

But it is for the betterment of both Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis that the two got together to play the blues, in whatever setting. Wynton’s great weakness, as jazz fans know, is a certain overblown pretense—a tendency to take himself and everything about his art too seriously. Willie Nelson is also a great artist, but his concerts can feel like casual picnics—so loose that some of the art’s power is sapped. Together, the balance is something special.

Here is a top jazz quintet: the leader’s invincible trumpet, testifying through a variety of mutes or growling with authentic feeling; Walter Blanding playing saxophone with grand power and harmonic subtlety; Dan Nimmer playing piano that sweeps from rags to Teddy Wilson to Bill Evans but not without barrelhouse grooving; Carlos Henriquez, a woodsy anchor on bass violin; Ali Jackson equally adept on brushes-n-snare or just tambourine or the whole kit swinging like mad.

But then there is a harmonica player, Mickey Raphael (left), sounding just like a train one minute and like an alto sax the next. And then Willie Nelson: not changed at all in this context, absolutely himself, but elevated because is backed by a band capable of just about anything, and he himself plucking out harmonically interesting guitar solos.

The repertoire for this concert is mainly blues, the great through-line of American music—the very connective tissue between “country” and “jazz” and everything in between. Wynton and Willie play straight twelve-bar material like “Rainy Day Blues” and “Bright Lights, Big City”, but they also play jump blues (“Caldonia”), country blues (“That’s All” by Merle Travis), modified blues (“Aint’ Nobody’s Business If I Do”), gospel blues (“Down by the Riverside”) and blues-drenched standards (“Georgia on My Mind”).

The other material fits in just fine: a “Stardust” that puts Willie Nelson in the lineage with Louis Armstrong, “Don’t Get Around Much  Any More´ by Duke Ellington (right) and a super-fast “Sweet Georgia Brown

A casual viewer should respond to the fun here. It’s truly a joyous concert, with clapping and standing and laughing. Willie’s vocals are, of course, beyond any one style. He sings with so little drama, with such casual intimacy, that the connection to the lyrics and to the rhythmic placement of the syllables is enhanced. The audience hangs on every note.

But it’s also true that Marsalis has lavished great artistry on the arrangement of every tune. In between a few of the tunes, snippets of rehearsal are included, with Marsalis specifying the rhythmic feelings and accents. And each tune is enhanced not only by expressive solos by the jazz players but also by perfectly calibrated horn arrangements. Marsalis arrays the two voices every which way—turning the few chords that make up most blues tunes into tiny symphonies of riffs and runs, licks and runs. The blues, in fact, can be as complex as any form in music. In the right hands.

A casual viewer should respond to the fun here. It’s truly a joyous concert, with clapping and standing and laughing. Willie’s vocals are, of course, beyond any one style. He sings with so little drama, with such casual intimacy, that the connection to the lyrics and to the rhythmic placement of the syllables is enhanced. The audience hangs on every note.

But it’s also true that Marsalis has lavished great artistry on the arrangement of every tune. In between a few of the tunes, snippets of rehearsal are included, with Marsalis specifying the rhythmic feelings and accents. And each tune is enhanced not only by expressive solos by the jazz players but also by perfectly calibrated horn arrangements. Marsalis arrays the two voices every which way—turning the few chords that make up most blues tunes into tiny symphonies of riffs and runs, licks and runs. The blues, in fact, can be as complex as any form in music. In the right hands.

When the whole band is rocking on “Caldonia”, you know you’re in the right hands. When Wynton joins Willie on vocals for “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” the feeling in the whole room is plain: enjoyment. Every time Blanding picks up his tenor, the rhythm section turns it up a few notches, as his sound is pure brawn. And all of Wynton’s solos are animated by a combination of musical logic and guttural drive. On “That’s All”, the leader—probably the most technically proficient trumpeter in history—plays a solo consisting of a single note, held for eleven bars but with a thrilling use of a derby mute and then a resulting strangled downward run. The whole band cracks up in pleasure.

There aren’t any special features on this DVD, but who needs them?

 There are a few quick interview segments interspersed with the music—Willie talking about his harmonica player, Mickey Raphael; Wynton explaining the ubiquity of the blues or talking about how much he values the authenticity of Nelson; Nelson expressing his awe at the ability of the quintet; and Wynton providing an impromptu lesson in how two-beat country or gospel morphs into driving swing in a blink.

In the case of Wynton Marsalis and Willie Nelson playing the blues in the heart of downtown Manhattan, the music alone is more than enough.

There is in the live video of the concert, though, a fascinating insight into the character and generosity of spirit that is Willie Nelson, He speaks to camera in his dressing room, explaining how integral has been the mouth-harp work of Mickey Raphael as part of Willie´s road bands, and in the recording studio.

Sometime around 1990 I was delighted and proud top interview both Willie Nelson and Mickey Raphael at a Wembley country music festival. Anyone to do with the band was courteous and helpful and the gig took place in the era when Willie was looking back at stardust left by people like Hoagy Carmichael (left) and then re-inventing their music.

Another noticeable aspect from the concert with Wynton Marsalis was the barely noticeable nods of approval from one musician to another after a solo intercession. Nevertheless, the mutual respect and a shared love of the music was tangible even through the tv screen

The concert I saw on tv in 2023 brought into full circle my friendship with Steve Cooke (right), my former business-colleague in the UK who took over the reins (of all across the arts) when I retired here to Lanzarote in 2015.

Steve had frequently visited me in my home/office and I had always sat back, silently but smugly, thinking that although he loved literature and music as much as I did, and aware that a shaded area on a Venn Diagrams of our collections would be pretty large, I was, nevertheless, pretty sure he couldn´t have a music and books library as well stocked as my own.

And I was right. When I eventually saw Steve´s office I could confirm that his shelves of books and cds and box-set etc and videos was nothing like as big as mine,….it was much, much, MUCH bigger and even included names I hadn´t heard of.  Placed in pride of place on top of the whole lot, was a boxed set of Wynton Marsalis, a musician I hadn´t been aware of from a genre to which I had turned my back. it being far too complicated with a history too convoluted for me to start studying in my sixties.

When I finally retired over here and launched this daily blog four urars ago Steve responded to my request for him to write an article on Marselis for one of my early issues, he sent me a piece so interesting that I now frequently include picked up jazz pieces as I walk these sidetracks & detours,

Meanwhile, our friends at Jazz In Reading tell us of a a raìdly up-coming live-stream concert to which our readers are invited !

logo jir Jazz in Reading is delighted to have teamed up with Guildford Jazz to promote their BEAT project which is funded by Arts Council England and which aims to promote the next generation of younger artists and to help clubs attract a younger audience.

This means that (as an alternative to attending the live events) supporters of Jazz in Reading have access to a live-stream, on the night and for a week afterwards (details below).

The next BEAT project from the Boileroom Guildford features Xhosa Cole (right)) who, since winning BBC Young jazz musician award in 2018, has headlined London’s major league clubs and already established himself in the premier league of UK jazz saxophonists.

“A young player with formidable technique and a solid grasp of the post-John Coltrane African American tradition” Chris May All about Jazz

Xhosa is one of the leading new wave of Birmingham saxophonists alongside Soweto Kinch and Shabaka Hutchings. In 2020 he received the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Newcomer as well as having been nominated for the Jazz FM Breakthrough award.

He has performed alongside artists including Monty Alexander and Courtney Pine and performed at prestigious venues and events including Ronnie Scott’s and the BBC Prom. As a recording artist, Xhosa featured on Soweto Kinch’s latest album ‘Black Peril’ and UK R&B singer songwriter Mahalia’s critically acclaimed debut album ‘Love and Compromise’.

Xhosa’s deep and authentic connection to the lineage of jazz music has helped to establish him among the most exciting young talents in the country. His exposure to players from a range of different traditions and outlooks, compounded by his strong connection to the inner-city community in Handsworth, Birmingham where he grew up has helped to develop a fiercely unique and independent voice.

This brand new ensemble “Rhythm-a-ting” explores the compositions of Thelonious Monk with the Xhosa Cole fingerprint perfect for a live setting: Energetic filled with humour reconnecting Jazz music and tap-dance by NYC Dancer Liberty Styles!

Personnel: Xhosa Cole – Sax | Josh Vadiveloo – Double Bass | Steve Saunders – Guitar | Nathan England-Jones – Drums | Liberty Styles – Tap Dancer

Support: ‘Ideasthesia’

‘Ideasthesia’ is a new quintet project led by saxophonist, composer and improviser George Garford.

The group brings together five accomplished improvisers based across London and Birmingham to perform Garford’s original material. Exploring the intersections between contemporary jazz and free improvisation, the quintet is quickly building a reputation for their audacious, high-energy performances and imaginative band sound. Garford’s writing seeks to balance the ensemble’s collective freedom with a detailed personal aesthetic; navigating tightly woven structures, expansive textural landscapes and unfolding narratives with a sense of urgency.

Personnel: George Garford – Alto Saxophone, Composer, Bandleader | Daniel Kemshell – Guitar | Olly Chalk – Piano | Jack Garside – Double Bass | Jonno Gaze – Drums

The Boileroom,13 Stoke Fields, Guildford. Surrey, GU14LS (click here for how to get there)

Please note this event is standing only

Date Friday 17 February

Doors open 7pm, support band from 7.45pm. Main act 9pm. The event will finish about 11pm

Tickets £12 (£10 for Guildford Jazz Members, £5 students/concessions) + booking fee – available here.

How to watch

The live-stream will be available free for supporters of Jazz in Reading until Friday 24 February. However, we would ask you to make a donation which will go directly to the musicians. As a guide to a suitable donation, the ticket price for the live performances is £12

Watch here – the broadcast is best watched with headphones or through good speakers.

If you have any problems please get in touch with Guildford Jazz and they will offer help.
Best wishes

The Jazz in Reading Team
Buy tickets for live BEAT events
Xhosa Cole 17 February
The Banger Factory 17 March

On air sign background

Don´t forget, though, that you can also hear on the airwaves a jelly of jazz when you tuck into Hot Biscuits from the mix cloud. Presented by Steve Bewick and Gary Heywood-Everett this week´s broadcast is a Valentines Suite of romantic jazz. Steve and gary, friends of our pages here, will include some old favourites from Chet Baker, Miles Davis and Billie Holiday, with some new contenders from John Leighton, Jill Torvaney and Jim McJannet and more besides.

If this sounds interesting please share the link below with your like-minded, jazz loving friends 24/07 so you can all join Steve and Garyfor a plate of Hot Biscuits at

 Steve Bewick’s Shows | Mixcloud


please note logo The primary source is an article written by Phil Wayman and published on line by pop matters

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Today´s article was collated by Norman Warwick (right), a weekly columnist with Lanzarote Information and owner and editor of this daily not-for-profit blog at Sidetracks And Detours.

Norman has also been a long serving broadcaster, co-presenting the weekly all across the arts programme on Crescent Community Radio for many years with Steve, and his own show on Sherwood Community Radio. He has been a regular guest on BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio 4.

As a published author and poet he was a founder member of Lendanear Music, with Colin Lever and Just Poets with Pam McKee, Touchstones Creative Writing Group (where he was creative writing facilitator for a number of years) with Val Chadwick and all across the arts with Robin Parker.

From Monday to Friday, you will find a daily post here at Sidetracks And Detours and, should you be looking for good reading, over the weekend you can visit our massive but easy to navigate archives of over 500 articles.

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