CD Review: Crazy: The Music of Willie Nelson

Posted 2 February, 2008 in CD Reviews, Origin Records - Comments Off comments

By John Barron, All About Jazz.com

Crazy: The Music of Willie Nelson goes above and beyond the confines of mere adulation for an American music icon. Seattle-based trumpeter Thomas Marriott creates a conceptual sonic flow, harnessing energy from the melodic and rhythmic legacy of some of Nelson’s well known and not-so-well-known gems. For the bulk of the session Marriott is supported by a stellar crew of like-minded risk takers, including saxophonist Mark Taylor, keyboardist Ryan Burns, bassist Geoff Harper and drummer Matt Jorgensen.

The disc traverses a musical landscape full of twists and turns, moving ever-so-smoothly from techno- based grooves (“Phases & Stages, Circles & Cycles”), to 1970s-era fusion explorations (“Write Your Own Songs,” “You Wouldn’t Cross the Street”), to straight-ahead blowing (“I’m Building Heartaches”). Tracks like “Everywhere I Go” and “Crazy” are comparatively clear-cut, adhering to the accessible nature of Nelson’s gorgeous melodies.

An emphasis on melody seems to be Marriott’s top priority throughout the disc’s eleven tracks. The trumpeter’s warm-tone and exuberance breathes life into simple, yet sumptuous themes such as “The Great Divide” and “On the Road Again.” An exciting soloist, Marriott’s improvised dueling with Taylor’s soprano saxophone on “I’m Building Heartaches” stands out as a disc highlight.

Jorgensen and Harper keep things grounded while maintaining a loose, open-ended rapport with each groove. Burns snakes his way through the disc with inventive soloing and distorted synth clusters. His out-of- left-field accompaniment on the second half of “Crazy” is worth the price of admission. Guest keyboardist Wayne Horwitz creates an electronic frenzy on the Weather Report-influenced “Write Your Own Songs”—the groove is practically a carbon copy of Joe Zawinul’s “Black Market.”

The music from this session may be hard to categorize, but the same can be said of Nelson. The eclectic nature of the iconic singer/songwriter’s catalogue lends itself surprisingly well to Marriott’s liberal approach.

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