Jazzclub Singen (Hohentwiel, Germany) 15th Anniversary
The opening of "Hard as Nails" let me sample Watson as trio pianist. His left hand kept going, way down there (Morel's string bass operating at a higher level) and he worked up huge tension with both mitts pretty well entirely left of center of the keyboard. Then his right hand broke out suddenly and daringly got halfway up toward the top, far-right notes. He didn't solo on everything and sometimes barely a little finger got above middle C. The extension of the performances probably owed something to an expert mingling of rabblerouse through musical substance. It was the mood at least Watson was in, swapping grins with the drummer amid the din. "Hard as Nails" also had Lauer's one-man Roland Kirk and then some roaring with the drummer alarmingly pugnacious. Heavy metal's for sissies! On this title Morel also pulled a bass string further than I have seen one stretched for musical purposes from any soundboard. Attention to the tender meditative sections was not skimped; but away from these it was What the Hell! Recorded with Steve Lacy in 1987 (Watson has been recording for almost a quarter of a century?) "Situation Tragedy" was the present quartet's last number before encores. Watson opened with legit classical business, Lauer's tenor cut in and Marguet really did make the subsequent thunderstorm seem slightly effete.
Oh, yes"Hardware" seemed to be an oblique and modal descendant of Ellington's "Caravan" and several other themes recalled Lacy compositions (though Lacy did not himself go into such overt sustained artillery mode).
I'd acquired the new issue of the Herbie Hancock/VSOP Under the Sky tapes shortly before the Watson-Lauer gig, the Tokyo concerts with several thousand by now certainly middle-aged Japanese young and ballistic in a stadium. How did Watson do it with just the couple of hundred Germans who filled the modestly proportioned modern arts center theatre which is the home of this concert series?
Eric Watson by Mark Wohlrab