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Ken & Harry Watters: Brothers

Jim Santella By

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The Summit Records jazz catalog isn’t large, but it offers nothing but the very best. Their emphasis is on brass instruments, and a list of their recordings may be found at http://www.summitrecords.com/records/jazz.rel.html .

The quintet on Brothers performs mainstream jazz with a modern twist. They also reach back to more traditional standards such as Harry Watters’ ballad rendering of the Tommy Dorsey theme song "I’m Getting Sentimental over You" and Ken Watters’ similar ballad approach to Duke Ellington’s "In a Sentimental Mood." Born to a musical family in Huntsville, Alabama, the brothers studied together in high school and at the University of North Texas, but their careers have followed different paths. Trombonist Harry toured four years with the Dukes of Dixieland, earned a master’s degree in Music from the University of New Orleans in 1990, and currently serves as jazz trombonist with the United States Army Blues jazz ensemble. Trumpeter Ken continued his higher education at the Manhattan School of Music and the Banff Center for the Arts, worked with the Mingus Big Band and the Toshiko Akiyoshi orchestra, and names Woody Shaw & Tim Hagans as two of his favorite trumpeters. They’re supported by a more than capable rhythm trio. Kenny Werner provides creative interludes on just about every piece, while Scott Colley takes a creative solo on "Sentimental Mood" and Newmann gets the feature for Cole Porter’s "What is this Thing Called Love."

With a clean sound and pleasant atmosphere resembling some of the more comfortable "Snoopy" work of pianist Vince Guaraldi, the quintet starts their album with "The Girls Back Home." Pianist Werner lends suitable accompaniment and fine interludes to each piece; his fiery fast solo on "Autumn Leaves" serves as a fine example of the technique many pianists aim for but never quite manage. Similarly, "Moonlight in Vermont" and "Body and Soul" pour out at speeds faster than usual without sacrificing the swing. A snappy Bo Diddley beat provides another unique approach, as the ensemble rolls out "What is this Thing Called Love." Trumpeter Ken Watters stretches his envelope and reveals here and elsewhere that he may have been influenced, among others, by Lester Bowie. On Ken Watters’ "Close to the Vest" as well as his "Diversion," the two brothers play mellow in unison and then in close harmony, with a result that sounds a lot like the spirit and cohesiveness of the rock band Chicago. Harry Watters’ "Trinidad" places the trombonist’s smooth ballad phrasing atop a gentle calypso rhythm, as the album winds down with a few familiar standards. Although their careers are well established, this is the Watters Brothers first recording together, and comes highly recommended.


Track Listing: The Girls Back Home; I

Personnel: Ken Watters- trumpet; Harry Watters- trombone; Kenny Werner- piano; Scott Colley- acoustic bass; Scott Neumann- drums.

Title: Brothers | Year Released: 1999


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