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The jazz world has had no shortage of brother acts Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Nat and Cannonball, three Heaths, three Montgomerys, and three Joneses, the young Harper brothers, those Marsalis guys... just to mention a few. And now we have the Watters boys of Huntsville, Alabama, trumpeter Ken and trombonist Harry, with their new release, aptly titled "Brothers."
Although they are brothers and both graduates of the fine jazz program at North Texas State, Ken and Harry Watters have decidely different musical sensibilities. Ken is the modernist, a busy New Yorker who has played with such top ensembles as the Mingus Big Band and Tokshiko Akiyoshi, as well as backing Frank Sinatra and Eartha Kitt. Harry is the traditonalist, a former leader of New Orleans' Dukes of Dixeland and a current member of the U.S. Army Jazz Band, where he's busy "keeping jazz safe for democracy."
While both have recorded widely, "Brothers" is their first effort together, and it strongly reflects brother Ken's more modern musical interests. Three of Ken's originals and one of Harry's are included, along with seven familiar standards. The opening cut, Ken's "the Girls Back Home," is the most memorable of the originals, a deceptively simple, folksy melody that features fine soloing from Ken and the masterful pianist Kenny Werner. Also on hand in the solid rhythm section are bassist Scott Colley and drummer Scott Neumann.
Both of the Watters brothers are technically accomplished musicians, and they share a talent for smooth, flowing solos with little bluster. What's most impressive here is that they actually do some fresh, interesting things with such overplayed warhorses as "Moonlight in Vermont," which is turned into an up-tempo bebop burner, and "What is This Thing Called Love," which is given an irresistible New Orleans street beat. Werner is the ringer here, but Ken and Harry certainly hold their own. The jazz family has a welcome new addition in the Watters brothers of Huntsville, Alabama.