Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin, Willie Nelson’s latest full-length album for Legacy Recordings, has debuted at #1 on both the Top Current Jazz chart and the Top Traditional Jazz chart. The only Willie Nelson albums to have previously scaled the Jazz charts have been Two Men With The Blues (#1, Top Jazz Albums, 2008; #1, Jazz Albums, 2009) and Here We Go Again: Celebrating The Genius of Ray Charles (#2, Jazz Albums, 2011; #2, Jazz Albums, 2012) (and each of those records was a collaboration with jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis).
Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin is proving a welcome addition to the catalog of the legendary American musical recording artist, with members of the press corps singing its praises in print and online. “What’s here is warming and inviting,” said AllMusic.com, “a record by an artist who is happy to be part of the great tradition of American song.”
The New York Times called the album “…wistfully tender…. insightful and irreplaceable….” while the Associated Press noted that the collection was “…laid back and beautifully arranged.”
“Nelson’s masterful, nuanced way with a song and the jazzy inflections of his guitar are a perfect match for this breezy slate of standards,” wrote Hits, observing that “Nelson casts a dappled-sunshine glow on some very well-trod ground….Never has the Great American Songbook sounded better at 4:20.”
“Summertime points to the sophistication that informs such genre-transcending Willie originals such as ‘Crazy’ and ‘Funny How Time Slips Away,'” said the Nashville Country Weekly, noting that the album “is distinguished by its smartly chosen representation of the Gershwin’s musical breadth and the handpicked, multi-stylistic band fittingly snazzing up the affair while making the more of Willie’s no-dress-code musical fusion.“
“The artist delivering these songs is as classic, comforting and unassailable as the standards he’s taking on,” wrote the Dallas Morning News. “Beginning to end, Summertime is yet another Nelson record you can put on and not worry about hitting ‘skip.'”
“Summertime serves as a reminder of the durability of Gershwins’ work,” said Icon, “and Nelson’s skills as a singer.”
Nelson’s new album of pop standards, penned by America’s legendary songwriting duo George and Ira Gershwin, follows the selection of Willie as the 2015 recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The first country artist ever to receive the distinguished Gershwin Prize, Willie Nelson was honored in November 2015 with a two-day celebration in Washington, DC, culminating in a star-studded tribute concert (subsequently broadcast on PBS on January 15, 2016).
President Jimmy Carter (unable to attend the concert) wrote in a letter, read by host Don Johnson to the crowd, that Nelson‘s music has “enriched the lives of people far and wide for decades” and that the songwriter is truly worthy of this “prestigious and well-deserved award.”
“To get a Gershwin award for anything is great but to get one for songwriting is especially great because Ira and George Gershwin were just fantastic writers. They wrote some of the greatest songs ever,” said Willie Nelson in response to receiving the Gershwin Prize. “The Gershwin songs have been here for many many years. When I was just a small guy, I remember hearing all these great Gershwin songs and they’ll be around forever because great music like that just does not go away.”
Among the 11 Gershwin classics recorded by Willie Nelson for his new album are two duets: “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” with Cyndi Lauper (the song was originally introduced by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the 1937 film Shall We Dance) and “Embraceable You” with Sheryl Crow (the song was performed by Ginger Rogers in Girl Crazy, recorded by Billie Holiday in 1944 and inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2005).
Other songs on Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin include: “But Not For Me” (written for Girl Crazy, Ella Fitzgerald’s version won a Grammy in 1960); “Somebody Loves Me” (published in 1944, the song was a hit for The Four Lads in 1952); “Someone To Watch Over Me” (written in 1926 for Oh, Kay!, the song also closes out Willie Nelson’s 1978 album Stardust); “It Ain’t Necessarily So” (written for the Gershwins’ 1935 pop/gospel opera Porgy and Bess); “I Got Rhythm” (the 1930s jazz standard written for Girl Crazy); “Love Is Here To Stay” (the last composition completed by George Gershwin before his death in 1937, the song serves as the main theme in An American In Paris and is a centerpiece of the Great American Songbook); “They All Laughed” (written for the 1937 film Shall We Dance); “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” (written for the 1937 film Shall We Dance); and the immortal “Summertime” (an aria originally written for Porgy and Bess, “Summertime” has become one of the most covered songs in pop music history).
Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin hearkens back to Stardust, the 1978 blockbuster album of pop standards that secured Willie’s reputation as pop balladeer (in addition to his status as one of the architects of outlaw country music). Stardust peaked at #1 on Billboard’ s Top Country Albums and #30 on the Billboard 200. Stardust was on the Billboard’ s Country Album charts for ten years-from its release in April 1978 until 1988. In 2002, Stardust was certified quintuple platinum, and it was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame class of 2015.
Produced by Willie’s friend and musical collaborator Buddy Cannon along with co-producer Matt Rollings, Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin features musicians Matt Rollings (piano, B-3 organ, Wurlitzer), Jay Bellerose (drums), David Piltch (bass), Dean Parks (electric guitar, acoustic guitar), Paul Franklin (steel guitar), Kevin Smith (bass), Bobbie Nelson (B-3 organ, piano), Mickey Raphael (harmonica) and Willie Nelson (Trigger).
Willie Nelson and Family are scheduled to perform a number of live concerts and music festivals in March, April, May, June and August of this year. Details may be found at http://willienelson.com/tour/
About Willie Nelson
In February 2012, Willie Nelson entered into an historic new record deal with Legacy Recordings, the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment, marking a label homecoming for Nelson, who, from 1975-1993, had cut a phenomenal string of top-selling singles and albums for Columbia Records, beginning with 1975’s seminal smash Red Headed Stranger. New titles by the artist under the Legacy imprint will include newly recorded songs and performances as well as archival releases, personally curated by the artist, drawn from all phases of his career including his recordings for RCA Records and others.
Nelson’s album releases for Legacy Recordings have included:
1) Heroes (2012), a collection of pop-country songs performed by Willie with an all-star roster of guest artists including Merle Haggard, Snoop Dogg, Kris Kristofferson, Billy Joe Shaver, Sheryl Crow, and Jamey Johnson as well as Willie’s sons, Lukas Nelson and Micah Nelson;
2) Let’s Face The Music And Dance (2013), a collection of new studio performances by Willie Nelson and Family;
3) To All The Girls… (2013), a collection of newly recorded duets with contemporary pop-country women singers including Dolly Parton, Mavis Staples, Sheryl Crow, Loretta Lynn, Wynonna Judd, Rosanne Cash, Alison Krauss, Miranda Lambert, Tina Rose, Carrie Underwood, Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Secret Sisters, Brandi Carlile, Lily Meola, Shelby Lynne, Melonie Cannon and Paula Nelson;
4) Band of Brothers (2014), featuring the artist’s first batch of freshly penned original songs in nearly two decades
5) December Day: Willie’s Stash, Vol. 1 (2014), the first installment of the Willie’s Stash archival recordings series, the album features Willie Nelson and Sister Bobbie performing intimate new recordings of songs that informed their musical heritage.
6) Django and Jimmie (2015), a new full-length LP collaboration between American outlaw country music legends Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, the album became the pair’s first #1 Country Album chart-topper since 1983’s Pancho & Lefty.
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