American Classic (Blue Note)
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Aug. 14, 2009
Willie NelsonAmerican Classic (Blue Note)
Though billed as the follow-up to his groundbreaking crossover Stardust, Nelson's debut on seminal jazz imprint Blue Note lacks the luster of its 1978 counterpart. American Classic is tender and light, and Nelson inhabits the songs easily, especially on the orchestral rendition of "You Were Always on My Mind," but in its comfort the album drifts toward innocuous. Unable to recapture the shock of reinvention that was Stardust, producer Tommy LiPuma rests Nelson's slowly distilled vocals atop a band of jazz ringers that squares the Texan with the tradition rather than upsetting it, and only Joe Sample's piano steps up to push the songs beyond their ready-made standard status. "Fly Me to the Moon" lacks thrust, and "Ain't Misbehaving" drains its playful yearning, and even as Diana Krall duets marvelously seductive on "If I Had You," Norah Jones meshes unconvincingly with the interplay of "Baby It's Cold Outside."