Willie @ Ottawa Jazz Festival - 06-21-2013

80 years young. While most of us pray we get to that age some day, imagine what it must have been like for Willie Nelson to have reached that milestone while on the road doing what he has loved for almost his entire life. Opening with the hopefully forgotten memories of "Whiskey River" I couldnt help but grin at the amount of social change he has seen throughout the years You and I will never experience anything like that in our lifetimes. 

I was curious to hear how everything would sound on the grounds of Confederation Park considering its spaciousness and the fact that Willie and his Family Band are much more suited to intimate venues. The volume was much lower towards the back but improved dramatically within the first third of the stage. I couldnt even hear Kevin Smith's bass until I moved but at least the man we all came to devote our attention to came through loud, clear, and vibrant. From the second song it seemed we were in for a treat as "Still Still Moving To Me" informed us that this band in the midst of their tour were on top of their game.

Willie paid tribute to many country greats throughout the night including Waylon Jennings ("Good Hearted Woman"), Hank Williams ("Jambalaya", "Hey Good Looking", "Move It On Over") and the seemingly underrated song writer Kris Kristofferson ("Help Me Make It Through The Night"). I wont even begin to guess if there were more red bandanas thrown out to the crowd or participatory sing-alongs. Willie's audience certainly know the material and he kept delivering with songs like "Mamas Dont Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys" and the always welcomed medley of "Funny How Time Slips Away", "Crazy" and "Night Life". The final third was a highlightand featured his more well known material and the collective anticipation was matched in wonderful performances of "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain", "Always On My Mind", "Georgia On My Mind" (is there a better harmonica solo than what is found inside of Georgia?), "On The Road Again".

While Willie Nelson is far more known as a country musician there is no debating that his approach is far more aligned with jazz and those styles were once again in full effect as he put on a stellar display of back beat note crescendos all night long. His solos are so unique that they really should simple name that particular music Trigger, in honour of his guitar. A man of virtue with nothing left to prove the inspiration that Willie instills in everyone has really transcended from beyond his music so I had a good chuckle as "Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die" doubled as a part of the closing encore. Willie created a large campfire jam under the stars that ended far too early, albeit as satisfying a night at one's favorite wooded getaway.