The genius of their first special was how it favored neither man's immediate, obvious specialty: Nelson is, of course, a country music icon, while Marsalis is one of the nation's foremost jazzmen, but for that show, they met in the middle and played some blues. This time, in taking on the Charles songbook, they allow themselves to hopscotch all over the melodic map, as he did. Charles was, of course, the "genius of soul," but he was also a musical journeyman who experimented in pop, blues, jazz, and country (most famously on his classic Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music albums). And they don't restrict themselves to Charles' own compositions, just songs he performed throughout his career.
The Genius of Ray Charles is a 1959 album by Ray Charles. In 2003, the album was ranked number 263 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Some players from Ray Charles' big band are joined by many ringers from the Count Basie and Duke Ellington bands for the first half of this program, featuring Charles belting out six songs arranged by Quincy Jones. "Let the Good Times Roll" and "Deed I Do" are highlights, and there are solos by tenorman David "Fathead" Newman, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, and (on "Two Years of Torture") tenor Paul Gonsalves. The remaining six numbers are ballads, with Charles backed by a string orchestra arranged by Ralph Burns.