More recently recognized as a member of guitarist Bobby Broom's illustrious trio, Kobie Watkins has proven his savvy as a fearless drummer and now a leader on his debut Involved. Watkins is no neophyte. A native of Chicago who is also an educator, he was once dubbed in a newspaper article as "Teacher has Alter Ego as Jazz Musician" who has performed with the greats - Sonny Rollins, Arturo Sandoval, Fred Anderson and many others.
Mirroring his vast experience and varied interests, the ten tracks (a mix of covers and originals) embrace both hard swing and a melodious urban vibe. It becomes obvious that Watkins is a keen listener with an ear for composition and talented players. Broom brings his soulful strings on three tracks but it's also the introduction of players such as saxophonist Jarrard Harris and pianist James Austin, combined with Watkins' leadership, that elevates the recording all the more.
The program's mix includes hard bop ("Spastic"), hip grooves ("Expressions") and tender balladry ("Taboo To Love"). Watkins commands with gusto on "Congo," leading a full ensemble of sweltering brass within a pulsed African theme. On the very next track, "Gentle Souls," he paints with gossamer cymbal taps elevated by the silken performances of Geof Bradfield (sax) and Ryan Cohan (piano).
Within this robust set lies a glimpse into a lively Sunday church service with "Third Pew," which contains raucous horns and Austin's spirited filled organ; all that's needed is the collection plate. The lovely "Movin' On" closes the set with Watkins' gentle percussion and Broom adding just the right touches to end this enjoyable debut.
Track Listing: Spastic; Expressions; Sonny Like; Taboo To Love; Congo; Gentle Souls;
Short Story; Affectious; Third Pew; Movin' On.
Personnel: Kobie Watkins: drums, percussion; Geof Bradfield: saxophone (3, 5, 6,
7, 9); Jarrard Harris: saxophone (1, 8, 10); Pharez Whitted: trumpet
(3, 5, 7, 9); Terris Ransom: trombone (3, 5, 9); Bobby Broom: guitar
(2, 4, 10); James Austin: piano, organ, Rhodes (1, 2, 4, 9); Ryan
Cohan: piano (5, 6, 8); Ron Perrillo: piano, Rhodes (3, 7); Dennis
Carroll: bass (3, 6); Clark Sommers: bass (1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10); Josh
Ramos: bass (8); Harold Mims: strings (4).
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.