199

Ernie Watts Quartet: Oasis

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
Setting up Flying Dolphin Records in 2004 has given tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts wings. After 35 years calling on an ever-changing array of some of the greatest names in jazz to play on his records, Watts has now settled into two quartets: his American and European groups. The continuity of these ensembles and the complete artistic freedom that he's wrestled free have resulted in some of his strongest recordings. Four Plus Four (Flying Dolphin Records, 2009), To the Point-Live at the Jazz Bakery (Flying Dolphin Records, 2008), Spirit Song (Flying Dolphin Records, 2005), and Analog Man (Flying Dolphin Records, 2007)—winner of the Independent Music Award for Best Jazz Album—show Watts to be in a very good place artistically, writing and playing better than ever. Oasis- continues the run of fine form.

Drummer Heinrich Koebberling's "Konbawna" is a lyrical limbering-up exercise which features brief but impressive solos from bassist Rudi Engel and pianist Christof Saenger. Saenger, in turn, contributes the elegant "Palmito," featuring a fired-up Watts. After 13 years together, there is a generosity in the quartet's writing process, and the personalities of all four members are prominent throughout. One of two co-written by longtime collaborator, pianist Jeremy Monteiro, the title track shows the influence of tenorist John Coltrane with its brooding, spiritual intro. This gripping slow burner, with its suggestive Arabic underbelly, takes a number of deft turns, with Watts at his most expressive; whether stating the melody or unleashing tumultuous, tumbling lines which rattle the bones, the saxophonist's sincerity is powerful.

Watts' innate feel for a ballad finds expression in Will Jennings/Joe Sample's "One Day I'll Fly Away," and Johnny Mandel/Dave Frishberg's "You Are There." These beautiful tunes bring Saenger and Watts together into the spotlight, and their tender exchanges are softly voiced and full of warmth and lyricism. The Beatles' classic "Blackbird" is given a robust workout, Watts' burly tone steering the quartet away from the initial melody into more exploratory terrain, with the quartet shifting gears effortlessly. Watts signs off with a full-throated, honking cadenza, which typifies his original approach to this much-covered tune.

Coltrane's "Crescent" swings beautifully, Saenger laying down the marker with an extended solo of great fluidity before Watts replies with instant intensity, stretching himself in a searching, soaring run. Coltrane has long provided Watts with inspiration, but like another great tenorist, Charles Lloyd, Watts draws from Coltrane's spirit while maintaining his own, very personal identity. Soulfulness and blues characterize Watts' playing, and this is also heard on Watts and Monteiro's lovely "Twilight Walt"; even when mapping the contours of a simple melody, Watts commands attention.

Another Watts original, "Bass Geige" swings hard, with all four musicians displaying their fine wares. Dizzy Gillespie/Charlie Parker bop classic, "Shaw Nuff," takes the quartet out on a high, with Saenger and Watts locking horns in thrilling foot-to-the-floor unison lines. With Oasis Watts confirms—as if confirmation were needed—that he is one of the greatest living tenor saxophonists at the top of his game. A joy from start to finish.

Track Listing: Konbawna; Oasis; One Day I'll Fly Away; Blackbird; Palmito; Crescent; Twilight Waltz; Bass Geige "bahss guy-geh"; You are There; Shaw Nuff.

Personnel: Ernie Watts: tenor saxophone; Christof Saenger: piano; Rudi Engel: bass; Heinrich Koebberling: drums.

Title: Oasis | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Flying Dolphin Records

Tags

Watch

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Oasis

Oasis

Ernie Watts
Oasis

Radio
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Extended Analysis
Interviews
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Read more articles
Wheel of Time

Wheel of Time

Flying Dolphin Records
2017

buy
Wheel of Time

Wheel of Time

Flying Dolphin Records
2016

buy
A Simple Truth

A Simple Truth

Flying Dolphin Records
2015

buy
A Simple Truth

A Simple Truth

Flying Dolphin Records
2014

buy
Oasis

Oasis

Flying Dolphin Records
2011

buy
To The Point - Live at the Jazz Bakery

To The Point - Live...

Flying Dolphin Records
2009

buy

Upcoming Shows

Related Articles

Read The Turning Album Reviews
The Turning
By Bruce Lindsay
July 20, 2019
Read Reveries and Revelations Album Reviews
Reveries and Revelations
By John Eyles
July 20, 2019
Read Live/Shapeshifter Album Reviews
Live/Shapeshifter
By Don Phipps
July 20, 2019
Read Vol 3 Album Reviews
Vol 3
By Phillip Woolever
July 20, 2019
Read First Nature Album Reviews
First Nature
By Troy Dostert
July 19, 2019
Read Sacred Kind of Love: The Columbia Recordings Album Reviews
Sacred Kind of Love: The Columbia Recordings
By Jakob Baekgaard
July 19, 2019
Read Perhaps Album Reviews
Perhaps
By Don Phipps
July 19, 2019