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Alto saxophonist Bobby Watson first gained prominence during his tenure with Art Blakey’s “Jazz Messengers.” In addition, the artist served as Blakey’s musical director, while quickly establishing himself as one of the premiere altoists in modern jazz. Further substantiated by a few brilliant, early-mid 90’s outings featuring his “Horizon,” outfit and his work for the Italy based “Red Records,” label.
With this release, the artist rekindles his association with bassist Curtis Lundy along with Gregg Skaff (guitar) Orrin Evans (piano) and Montez Coleman (drums). A relatively mainstream outing, Watson draws upon a panorama of influences and sentiments. The quintet embarks upon an itinerary brimming with wistful themes, partly due to Watson’s radiant soloing amid his acute employment of tremolo and vibrato techniques. No doubt, the saxophonist possesses one of the most distinctive styles in jazz.
They swing, and alternate exchanges in concert with hybrid Latin/jazz rhythms along with an odd-metered but celebratory spin on Sammy Davis’ hit, I’ve Gotta Be Me.” Here and throughout Watson uses his alto and soprano saxophone as a vehicle for proficiently constructed thematic inventions. His band-mates render effective solos. However remembrances of Watson and trumpeter Terrell Stafford (“Horizon”) trading fierce fours and eloquently executed unison lines, resurfaced in my mind’s eye on more than one occasion. Nonetheless, his inaugural outing for this very fine record label is an impressive one as the ensemble’s upbeat stance speaks volumes. Recommended.