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Ernie Watts: A Simple Truth

Edward Blanco By

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After sixteen albums as leader, two-time Grammy-Award-winning saxophonist Ernie Watts presents a concept album, a journey of sorts, a musical description of a "jazz day" beginning with a morning piece and ending with an evening song in declaration of A Simple Truth. Recorded in Cologne, Germany, with his touring European quartet—together for over fifteen years—Watts imagines the music as being "basics that connects people, going right past language, ethnicity, culture and even history, into direct feeling," which is the simple truth the music in this audacious recording, is designed to reveal.

Another revelation immediately evident as one samples the music for the first time, is the absolutely impressive musical support Watts is surrounded by. His all-German European Quartet of classically-trained pianist Christof Saenger, bassist Rudi Engel and drummer Heinrich Koebberling, come together as one cohesive force with unquestioned musicianship providing the stellar backup making this group, one of the best quartets in the business.

On the menu are five striking originals and new treatments of tunes from trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pianist/arranger Billy Childs and the legendary Keith Jarrett. Opening and closing the session are two lush orchestral pieces co-written by L.A. pianist Ron Feuer with the saxophonist improvising solo work pronouncing each piece. "The Sound: Morning" and "The Sound: Evening" both share the same warm texture, gentle synthesizer background and light piano forays.

After the opening morning piece, the group keeps it soft on a gorgeous interpretation of the Jarrett ballad "No Lonely Nights," then changes direction on the Koebberling original "The Road We're On" adding a bit more bop and swing to the music featuring the leader on some terrific solo moments. The most ambitious of the originals, is the Watts tune "Acceptance" clocking in at over ten-minutes in duration, showcases plenty of the saxophonists high-flying improvisation, as well as Saenger's delicate key work.

Well what can one say about Gillespie's "Bebop," any read of this burner has to be boppish and swinging from beginning to end and this take is no different. Moving the music into a more reflective light, Childs' warm "Hope In The Face of Despair" is a beautiful ballad played by the leader with tenderness and emotion and serves as the perfect introduction to the gentle sounds of the title track moving this "jazz day" into the sunset hours on the soft keys of Saenger.

The day wraps up with the lush "The Sound: Evening," where the music on this outstanding album reveals many things and many truths among them, A Simple Truth, that Ernie Watts is still one of the best reed men around and that this Watts Quartet, is indeed amazing.

Track Listing: The Sound: Morning; No Lonely Nights; The Road We’re On; Acceptance; Bebop; Hope in the Face of Despair; A simple Truth; The Sound: Evening.

Personnel: Ernie Watts: tenor saxophone; Christof Saenger: piano; Rudi Engel: acoustic bass; Heinrich Koebberling: drums; Ron Feuer: synthesized orchestration (1, 8).

Title: A Simple Truth | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Flying Dolphin Records

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