A Big Month for Bobby Watson. October welcomed the newest release by Bobby Watson ( Quiet As It’s Kept RED Records 123284), also reviewed this month). As an introduction to Bobby Watson on RED, I wanted to look at two older RED recordings. But first, a little history of this exceptional artist in the shadows.
A native of Lawrence Kansas, Bobby Watson began playing saxophone at 13 and was soon arranging and composing for his high school ensembles. After attending the University of Miami, Watson moved North where he joined and later became musical director for Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, where he participated in a young Wynton Marsalis’ first sides. He went on to record widely (recording five discs for RED) and establish himself as a solid altoist and composer.
Round Trip. Titled after the provocative Ornette Coleman piece Round Trip was recorded the day following Watson’s critically recognized Appointment in Milano (RED Records 123187) sessions in February 1985. He is joined by an Italian trio of Piero Bassini on piano, Atillo Zanchio on bass, and Giampiero Prina on Drums who had recorded with him on the previous day’s Milano sessions.
On Round Trip Watson’s playing is beautifully angular and edgy on the avant-garde (“Round Trip” pieces and lush and mellow on the ballads (“There is No Greater Love”, “Blue in Green”). This span of styles illustrates Watson’s breathless talent width. He is equally at home with different jazz styles. He foreshadows his solo album with the bright original “If Bird could see me now”. Lest I neglect the point, “Watson’s Blues” illustrates his command of the blues. The ensemble playing is crisp and taut, making both Milano and Round Trip very accessible.
This Little Light... post dating Milano by several years, This Little Light of Mine was Watson’s daring and effective solo saxophone recording. Both Joe Henderson and Art Pepper had been very effective in solo saxophone recitals, but neither had ever released a completely solo recording. Watson floods his release with14 originals and standards that encompass the entire history of the alto saxophone. He opens the disc with Monk’s “Misterioso” moving through Parker’s “Donna Lee”, the traditional “This Little Light...”, Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” and several style-busting originals. He growls and honks, purrs and caresses. Watson has it all. Like the Bach Cello Suites, this music is not for everyone, but like that same music is essential and instructive...and enjoyable.
Track Listing (Round Trip):Round Trip, There is No Greater Love, Blue in Green, Sweet Dreams, Ceora, All The Thing of Jo Maka. (Total Playing Time 56:34).
Personnel (Round Trip):Bobby Watson: Alto Saxophone, Piero Bassini: Piano; Atillo Zanchio: Bass; Giampiero Prina: Drums.
Track Listing (This Little Light...):Misterioso; Donna Lee; These Foolish Things; Rock The House; This Little Light; Tico Tico; Body and Soul; Sundance; Recordame; Giant Step; Mes’ Tou Bosporou Ta Sterna; Over and Over; Yerga and Me; Five One Four; Blue Sax; Mes’ Tou Bosporou Ta Sterna (Take Two). (Total Playing Time 63:06).
Personnel (This Little Light...):Bobby Watson: Alto Saxophone.