As United We Swing: Best of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Galas—the upcoming album from the Wynton Marsalis Septet—demonstrates, there's a lot of common ground between jazz and country-western music. Like the jazz musicians they played with at Jazz at Lincoln Center's annual fundraising galas, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, and Jimmy Buffett all feel at home playing the blues, that thread uniting all American music, and their talents shine through on the performances included on the new record.
Willie Nelson chose to perform "Milk Cow Blues," the classic composition by Kokomo Arnold from which Nelson's 2000 record dedicated to the blues takes its name. Nelson's guitar solo showed off his improvisatory chops and elicited shouts of appreciation from the Septet. The performance also helped lay the groundwork for more collaborations between Nelson and Marsalis: they would go on to release Two Men with the Blues in 2008 and the Ray Charles homage Here We Go Again with Norah Jones in 2011.
Watch Nelson, Jones, and Marsalis perform "Hallelujah I Love Her So":
For his part, Lyle Lovett's take on Americana has always been infused with a healthy dose of jazz, especially his recordings with his Large Band. When he joined Marsalis for 2005's Jazz at Lincoln Center fundraising gala, he brushed off his own bluesy "My Baby Don't Tolerate," which is included on United We Swing and punctuated with a down-home Marsalis trumpet solo.
Jimmy Buffett's pirate-inspired brand of "gulf and western" is no less influenced by the blues. He covered Johnny Fuller's "Fool's Paradise" when he performed with the Septet, revealing his talent as a crooner, and his own sidemen—including steelpan Robert Greenidge—fit right in alongside Marsalis's band.
The goal of the record—besides assembling a world-beating collection of talent to raise money for Jazz at Lincoln Center's education initiatives—is to demonstrate just how comfortably jazz, country, Americana, and a whole host of other American-made genres can sit next to one another. Musicians like Wynton Marsalis, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, and Jimmy Buffett (not to mention other United We Swing artists like Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, and Natalie Merchant) have no problem performing together because they speak a common language: the blues.
United We Swing is available for pre-order now, and 100% of the proceeds go toward Jazz at Lincoln Center's education initiatives, which introduces thousands of young students to jazz each year. Pick up this piece of American musical history and support a good cause today!