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Ernie Watts at The Living Room

Ian Patterson By

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It was as exhilarating to watch as it was to listen to
Ernie Watts, Jeremy Monteiro, Belinda Moody, Shawn Kelley.

The Living Room Sheraton Grande Bangkok

12 June 2006

A saxophone that beautiful, black, embossed in gold leaf, and whose bell seemed to radiate golden light, is made to produce the finest of music. For that, it should be in the hands of a master craftsman and tonight it was. In Ernie Watts, it couldn't have had a better conduit for communication with the audience.

Backed by The Living Room's house band of Jeremy Monteiro on piano, Belinda Moody on bass and Shawn Kelley on drums, seasoned professionals all, Watts set out his stall with three classics. The first, Jackie McClean's "Little Melony had barely begun when Watts took it by the scruff of the neck and stamped his personality on it in an extended solo, his right hand at intervals falling away from the keys like a gunfighter making to draw. Piano and bass dropped out to leave Watts duetting with drummer Shawn Kelley who warmed to the task. "Nostalgia in Times Square by Charles Mingus swung like the original Wednesday night prayer meeting and showcased the considerable talents of Melbourne bassist Belinda Moody, swinging like a bass trombone. The third interpretation was a full-on version of Wayne Shorter's "Pinocchio

The first set was closed with Watt's "Bubala, a three-part suite from his album Spirit Song (Flying Dolphin Records, 2005) - dedicated to Watt's wife Patricia who was sat at the front, thus the onus was on the musicians to pull out all the stops. They all graduated with honors after a marathon, thirty-five minute improvisation, which was never less than absorbing. For the first part, piano, bass and drums created an infectious groove over which Watts soloed intensely. The second section of the suite saw Moody, Watts and outstanding pianist Monteiro in more reflective, bluesy mood, whilst the final part was a Coltrane-esque cry, in which all the musicians were flying, Shawn Kelley providing the fulcrum for this colossal carousel of sound. It was as exhilarating to watch as it was to listen to.

After a brief interval, the band tore into two Watts numbers, "ASFEW , with Watts and Monteiro alternating solos and the lovely "Spirit Song. The latter song started with Watts on a cedar flute, playing an Irish-sounding lament, but this was no dirge and the song blossomed, containing some of Watts' most uplifting and free blowing of the evening, with a nod to "A Love Supreme. Another very fine Moody solo led into the haunting reprise on flute once again - a wonderful song.

Victor Feldman's "Joshua, Thelonius Monk's "Round Midnight and Watt's latin-tinged "Reaching Up concluded a splendid, powerful set which earned Jeremy Monteiro, Belinda Moody, Shawn Kelley and Ernie Watts a standing ovation. Thoroughly satisfying.

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