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Portland Jazz Festival: A Celebration of ECM

Wynton Marsalis with Willie Nelson

The timeless allure of the blues was the common denominator that bonded Willie Nelson and the “Crazy”-like-a-fox Wynton Marsalis when the two American music icons shared the stage Friday and Saturday in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s elegant-yet-earthy Allen Room.

Their repertoire, which drew stylistically from Kansas City and Memphis to Marsalis’ proud-but-battered hometown of New Orleans and Nelson’s beloved Texas, was airy yet intimate. So was the setting for the first of Saturday’s two performances, one of four sold-out shows presented over the weekend in the same venue by this unlikely duo. With its panoramic view of Columbus Circle, Central Park and Manhattan’s nighttime skyline, it was hard to imagine a more stunning backdrop for the concert’s opening number, “Bright Lights, Big City.”

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