All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

586

Kind of Blue Turns 50: Bobby Watson Quartet at the Kimmel Center

Victor L. Schermer By

Sign in to view read count
Bobby Watson plays a richly modulated, soulful but virtuosic alto sax, moving around the keys with alacrity and altering tonal qualities in nuanced ways with a phenomenal embouchure.
Bobby Watson Quartet
Jazz Up Close: Kind of Blue Turns 50
Honoring Cannonball Adderly and John Coltrane, Saxophones
Kimmel Center Perelman Theater

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

March 28, 2009

The great Bobby Watson, still in "mid-life" at age 53, is a seasoned "heavy" on the alto sax whose playing echoes saxophone greats from Phil Woods to Cannonball Adderley, as well as tenor titans Dexter Gordon to Sonny Rollins, yet with his own incomparable virtuosity. Something must have been in the air at the Kimmel Center, because he was even better than when I heard him in New York at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola in 2005. Maybe it was the group. Maybe it was the acoustics and sound system. Maybe it was his frame of mind. Whatever it was, he swung like a newly crowned champion, and his sound was at its peak. As this writer noted in his 2005 review:



"Bobby Watson plays a richly modulated, soulful but virtuosic alto sax, moving around the keys with alacrity and altering tonal qualities in nuanced ways with a phenomenal embouchure. He plays very intensely, reflecting his Kansas City origins while moving forward through all the bebop and mainstream trends while maintaining his own consistent style."



This description applied equally well to Watson's debut at the Kimmel Center. Jazz at its very best has a way of embodying the traditions while at the same time courting the novel and new, and then there's an intangible quality of spontaneous energy that can sometimes pour from the instrument and the group. This concert had all of that "right stuff," and Watson's sound eschewed the nasal quality that some players took from Coltrane in his weaker moments, rather achieving a lyrical quality and richness that is what a saxophone should sound like.



The first set began with a bebop rendition of Duke Pearson's classic "Jeanine," a standard frequently performed by one of the night's "honorees," Cannonball Adderley. Watson's bright and rich sonority was immediately noticeable and was followed by a high-energy piano solo by Larry Willis, with an echo of Count Basie in both his style and his out-extended fingers that made him look a bit like Basie at the keyboard. This number was followed by a nod to the Philly bartender "Freddie Freeloader" (a tune from Kind of Blue, Columbia, 1959) in a cool stride version. For some reason, Watson got off to an uncomfortable start on this one, but eventually found his groove. Curtis Lundy then performed a "freeloading" bass solo, creating a surrealistic image of a "cheapster." (Lundy is a superb, creative bassist who should be better known and appears on Watson's latest CD for Palmetto Records, From the Heart (2008), which Watson graciously autographed for buyers after the show.) A superb cadenza by Watson segued into double time, where Watson showed incomparable rapidity and agility.



Again honoring Miles Davis' groundbreaking recording, Bill Evans' "Blue in Green" was taken at tempo that was laid back even for this contemplative ballad, bringing out Evans' own ability to evoke haunting moods when he played. The set ended with "Lazy Bird" from Blue Trane (Blue Note, 1957), re-written as "E.T.A." for the Jazz Messengers by Watson. Watson's somewhat idiosyncratic revision nevertheless strongly evoked Trane himself by virtue of the tonal intervals that became known as "Coltrane changes."



A post-intermission conversation with the musicians was competently led by Tom Warner, the new Kimmel VP of Programming, who recently replaced his former boss and mentor, Mervon Mehta, when the latter took a step up to the job of head honcho at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto (Toronto jazz fans, be on the lookout for what Mehta has planned there!). Bobby Watson, Danilo Perez (the curator of the series), and Larry Willis engaged in a trialogue about the meaning and significance of the album to whom the series is dedicated. Perez pointed out the accessibility and popularity of this great recording, while Watson emphasized how Davis allowed for individuality of style among the ensemble. The highlight of the discussion, however, was Willis' extended diatribe on how the ground-breaking album impacted on him and his cohorts, exclaiming, "It changed my life!" Listening to that recording was what convinced him to become a jazz musician.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Wilkes BBQ

Wilkes BBQ

Bobby Watson
From the Heart

CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Check Cashing Day

Check Cashing Day

Self Produced
2013

buy
 

The Gates BBQ Suite

Renaissance Jazz Cafe
2011

buy
The Gates BBQ Suite

The Gates BBQ Suite

Lafiya Music
2010

buy
 

Everlasting

Red Records
2009

buy
From the Heart

From the Heart

Palmetto Records
2008

buy
At Ease

At Ease

Cowbell Music
2008

buy

Related Articles

Read Tallinn Music Week 2018 Live Reviews
Tallinn Music Week 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: April 19, 2018
Read James Blood Ulmer and the Thing at Bochum Art Museum Live Reviews
James Blood Ulmer and the Thing at Bochum Art Museum
by Phillip Woolever
Published: April 17, 2018
Read Jocelyn Medina at Jazz at Kitano Live Reviews
Jocelyn Medina at Jazz at Kitano
by Tyran Grillo
Published: April 16, 2018
Read Marbin at The Firmament Live Reviews
Marbin at The Firmament
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 15, 2018
Read Big Ears Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Big Ears Festival 2018
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 13, 2018
Read Meg Morley Trio at 606 Club Live Reviews
Meg Morley Trio at 606 Club
by Gareth Thomas
Published: April 13, 2018
Read "Anat Cohen at Davidson College" Live Reviews Anat Cohen at Davidson College
by Perry Tannenbaum
Published: April 27, 2017
Read "Bonerama at the Iridium" Live Reviews Bonerama at the Iridium
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: August 5, 2017
Read "Bob DeVos Quartet At Trumpets Jazz Club" Live Reviews Bob DeVos Quartet At Trumpets Jazz Club
by David A. Orthmann
Published: February 8, 2018
Read "Miles Electric Band at Koerner Hall" Live Reviews Miles Electric Band at Koerner Hall
by Alain Londes
Published: October 28, 2017