Saturday, July 12, 2008

Two Men Who Don't Realize They Are Past The Days of Artistic Relevance

"Two Men with the Blues" is something like the "Gigli" of the jazz world; an album plagued by high profile stars, a terrible concept, and terribly bad execution. An album, in spite of it's objective awfulness, that critics around the country are spewing accolades on out of fear of hell reigning down on them from Lincoln Center, or at least of losing their drug connection in Willie's van. An album on which Willie Nelson's elderly, tone-deaf singing is matched in mediocrity only by Wynton's penchant for playing all of the same licks he played on his last album, "Live at the House of Tribes," which was actually quite good.

That's the biggest problem with this album; we've heard it all before, and we've heard it done better. Willie Nelson plays "Georgia on My Mind," and while it sounds as weary and whiskey-soaked as you would expect after his recent kerfuffle with the law, authenticity is no replacement for the ability to hold a tune. For some reason Nelson has been billed as playing "Django-styled guitar" on "Two Men with the Blues," but his playing reminds me more of a somewhat talented 9th grade blues guitar player attempting real changes for the first time.

Wynton's "Live at the House of Tribes" from a few years ago was his most life-affirming release since the eighties, and is probably one of the best jazz albums of the decade; while it wasn't innovative by any stretch, his playing on that recording managed to prove he was still a force to be reckoned with in the current landscape of young people. Now, with "Two Men With the Blues," Wynton has come to the forgone conclusion that the only way to keep his reputation is to play exactly what he played on "House of Tribes." With the exception of "Ain't Nobody's Business," in which Wynton proves he can sing better than an ancient Willie Nelson (which is not saying much), every song is a jump blues that features a trumpet solo from Marsalis in which he plays a few hard-bop licks, a series of tremolos from piano player Dan Nimmer, and an old-school tenor solo tempered with a few modern thoughts by Walter Blanding. Highly recommended for people who enjoy paying 18 dollars to hear the same terrible song played 10 times.

Next time I'll have a review of Marc Ribot's brilliant new "Party Intellectuals," which has quickly entered my mental list of the year's best along with Vijay Iyer's "Tragicomic," Bill Frisell's "History, Mystery," "Esperanza" and Jenny Scheinman's two new albums. I know I've been promising it for a while, but I'm finally ready to actually write about it.

1 comment:

Trash Mammal said...

yo the downbeat critics poll is out

don't be too hard on yourself