The title of Willie Nelson’s solo debut on Blue Note Records, American Classic, refers as much to the man himself as to the storied Tin Pan Alley repertoire he explores on this elegant new set. While it’s common now for mature pop artists to attempt to put their own stamp on the American Songbook, Nelson practically invented the approach. He set the standard for, well, playing the standards more than thirty years ago with Stardust, perhaps this “outlaw” entertainer’s most daring move, an album that many industry pundits thought would get him laughed off the charts and out of the biz.
Fans around the world know that the adventurous Nelson can sing just about anything—and with just about anyone he pleases. As he sees it, “The more songs you know, the more musicians you listen to, the more writers you hear, the better equipped you are to decide where you want to go next. That’s why I want to listen to everyone and everything and then decide which way I want to go. Then, of course, I might change my mind and go in an entirely different direction. But at least I have all these options.”
On American Classic, he’s joined, on vocals and piano, by Diana Krall in an intimate rendition of “If I Had You” that feel more like pillow talk than mere wishful thinking. (“It came off so well—she’s so smooth and her piano playing is the best,” praises Nelson.) He also duets with Norah Jones, countering playful protestations with romantic persuasion on Frank Loesser’s “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” (“That particular song has a lot of meaning for me,” Nelson admits, “and it’s obvious that I enjoy singing with her.”) Backing musicians include such notable jazzmen as pianist Joe Sample, bassist Christian McBride, Krall guitarist Anthony Wilson, and drummer Lewis Nash; Nelson’s longtime sidekick Mickey Raphael, his memorable co-star on Two Men with the Blues, plays harmonica, adding evocative, bluesy inflections to “Angel Eyes” and “Since I Fell For You.”
American Classic represents old-school record-making at its most sumptuously swinging, with a lighthearted yet sophisticated jazz feel.
Experience this American Classic
Live July 8th at 6:00pm
Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center
Tickets on Sale June1
www.wagnernoel.com, Etix at 1-800-514-3849
or at the box office Mon-Fri. Noon to 5pm