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Although David Watson performs with smaller groups on Imprisoned Splendor, one can easily envision him singing in front of a big band in the manner of his role model, the incomparable Joe Williams. He has the same earnest approach to a lyric and flawless sense of swing, but without the dark burnished voice or spark of individuality that made Williams instantly recognizable and secured his reputation as one of the foremost Jazz/blues singers of our time. That’s no putdown; there’s only one Joe Williams. If one can resist comparisons, Watson emerges on the evidence presented here as a competent singer who’s not quite in the class of a Williams, Kevin Mahogany or Johnny Hartman. The tools are there; they require only sharpening. Of course, as Watson indicates on the jacket that he has four grandchildren and one great–grandchild, the time for sharpening may be circumscribed. So let us enjoy what we have, which is a pleasant recital of songs, well–known and obscure, by a singer whose lucid baritone is on the whole silky–smooth and easy on the ears. Included are several of Williams’ signature tunes (“September in the Rain,” “A Hundred Years from Today,” “Every Day I Fall in Love”) and others written by Watson alone (“Fat Cat,” “Please Take Me Back to New Orleans”) or with lyricist Dee Bell (“Entertaining You,” “Imprisoned Splendor,” “I Miss Her So,” “Bewitched in Reverie,” “A New Home”). Watson interprets popular ballads (“Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” “My Foolish Heart”), Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” and the high–velocity “I Got the Blues,” based on Lester Young’s solo on “I Got Rhythm” (the only track on which he also scats). Watson’s companions are first–rate, and pianist Mackay has a number of venturesome solos along the way. Watson may be a few steps removed from super–stardom, but he’s quite a good singer.
Track listing: Entertaining You; September in the Rain; Imprisoned Splendor; Fat Cat; Dreamy; Take Me Back to New Orleans; Every Day I Fall in Love; Polka Dots and Moonbeams; A Hundred Years from Today; I Miss Her So; Well You Needn’t; Bewitched in Reverie; I Got the Blues; My Foolish Heart; A New Home; Reprise (73:20).
David Watson, vocals; John Mackay, piano; Archie Williams, guitar; Mel Graves, Steve Webber, Dartanu Brown, bass; Michael Aragon, Jaimeo Brown, drums; Linsay Ferguson, percussion; Peter Welker, trumpet; Jim Rothermel, tenor sax; Dale Gutridge, alto sax; Warren Dennis, Kahn Alesis QS8 voice master controller synthesizer (track 6).
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.