Kind of Blue Turns 50: Bobby Watson Quartet at the Kimmel Center
The second set commenced with "Autumn Leaves," Watson noting that the song constituted "one of my favorite Adderly moments" and showing how he (Watson) can shift effortlessly between rapid runs and lyrical reflections. Next came the Coltrane tune "Cousin Mary," named after Trane's beloved family member who still today is a strong supporter of jazz in Philadelphia and at the Cape May Jazz Festival. The Coltrane sound emerged in a uniquely transformed way in Watson's playing here. He then introduced "Love Remains," a beautiful ballad written by him and his wife, Pamela, and which has become somewhat of his signature tune ever since it appeared on the classic 1986 album by the same name. The final piece was "Flamenco Sketches," from Kind of Blue, in which Watson performed a beautiful impressionist solo that no doubt would have pleased Miles Davis just as the latter awed audiences when he played "My Funny Valentine" with haunting beauty and originality.
It was striking that all of the songs in the second set were ballads, in contrast to the common practice of building up the swing aspect to a rapid and frenzied finish. As if to make amends for that change, the group responded to a standing ovation by coming back for a stunning encore which began slowly with a saxophone cadenza followed by a 3/4 time jam that went to the high end of the Richter Scale and shook the house, fueled by Eric Kennedy's powerhouse drumming. Kennedy had trouble finding his groove at the beginning of the concert, but in time found his way to true form, reminiscent of Art Blakey's driving rhythm, and leaving the audience thrilled, not unlike the legendary leader of the Jazz Messengers, with whom Watson played for a number of yearsa stint that inspired the latter's driving spirit.