BLAIR’S DVD WATCH: Five Music DVDs for Last Minute Holiday Shoppers!

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Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis: Live from Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC (Eagle Eye Media)

One of the best CDs of the year (Two Men with the Blues) is also one of the best DVDs of the year! This pairing might be somewhat surprising to some, but think about it: Both are fabulous collaborators who cannot be pigeonholed, and each is a gifted improviser—Marsalis famously so; Nelson hugely underrated as a guitarist and jazz-influenced singer. Their common meeting ground is the blues, though the 13 songs on this DVD (10 were on the CD) range from standards like “Stardust” and “Georgia on My Mind” (both Nelson staples) to early jazz; the songwriters include everyone from Hoagy Carmichael to Duke Ellington to Jimmy Reed (as well as Willie Nelson). The nimble septet is spectacular throughout: Besides Nelson on guitar and Marsalis on trumpet, the group includes Nelson’s longtime harmonica ace Mickey Raphael, and four of Marsalis’ bandmates—pianist Dan Nimmer, bassist Carlos Enriquez, drummer Ali Jackson and saxophonist Walter Blanding. As you might expect, there’s quite a bit of N’awlins in some of these arrangements, but also some swing, jump blues and old-time country feel, too. Nelson is such a natural and subtle performer—his delivery sometimes seems almost offhand, but it always adds up to something rich and meaningful, and his loose guitar style (he still plays the same beat-up nylon-stringed acoustic he’s played forever) is perfectly suited to his approach as a singer. Marsalis helps bring focus to the music, as well as some amazing solos… but then everyone on this DVD has chops galore. Aurally and visually, this is as good as it gets. New York City, seen through the giant windows behind the band looks completely magical, and everything about the music—from the air in the arrangements to the passion in the performances—is superb. (The short interview segments between some songs are fun, too.) A fantastic gift for anyone with good taste!

Director: Danny Clinch. Executive producers: Mark Rothbaum, Geoff Kempin, Terry Shand. Recorded by John Harris (also live mix) and Rob Macomber.

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