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Kobie Watkins: Involved

Mark F. Turner By

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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.

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