Thomas Marriott, Crazy: The Music of Willie Nelson

Kevin Whitehead

By Kevin Whitehead

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Jazz musicians generally ignore the country repertoire, but have developed a taste for good old Americana. Hence this tuneful set of creative takes on Willie Nelson songs — parts of them, at least — only a couple of which absolutely everyone knows (“Crazy,” “On the Road Again”). Seattle's Marriott respects the Texan's catchy lines. He often double tracks his mellow-as-a-flugelhorn trumpet in tight or loose unison on the melodies, putting his horn's warm, calm voice at the music's center — we are talking Willie Nelson here — even if that brings a fleeting whiff of the “Love Boat” theme to “Phases & Stages, Circles & Cycles.” But on the improvising, his trumpet(s) and Mark Taylor's soprano sax may tumble over each other, rolling the music ahead.

Varied set of Willie’s tunes get the jazz treatment.

The quintet's secret weapon is electric pianist Ryan Burns's Moog synthesizer, which makes small but pivotal cameo appearances (as on “Crazy”), introducing a little timely weirdness where needed. (Wayne Horvitz does much the same, sitting in for Burns on “Write Your Own Songs.”) “One in a Row” galumphs along in a Jamaican dub groove; “I'm Building Heartaches” takes bassist Geoff Harper and drummer Matt Jorgensen out for a fast walk. The players have heart, but have some fun. Like Willie Nelson.