199

Ernie Watts Quartet: Oasis

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
Ernie Watts Quartet: Oasis 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.

Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Flying Dolphin Records


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Akua's Dance CD/LP/Track Review Akua's Dance
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Daylight Ghosts CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Live at PafA CD/LP/Track Review Live at PafA
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Ocean of Storms CD/LP/Track Review Ocean of Storms
by Troy Dostert
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Transparent Water CD/LP/Track Review Transparent Water
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Billows Of Blue CD/LP/Track Review Billows Of Blue
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 20, 2017
Read "No Parking Any Time" CD/LP/Track Review No Parking Any Time
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 5, 2017
Read "Vanheusenism: A Tribute to Jimmy Van Heusen" CD/LP/Track Review Vanheusenism: A Tribute to Jimmy Van Heusen
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 2, 2016
Read "EARS" CD/LP/Track Review EARS
by Rob Caldwell
Published: April 3, 2016
Read "Zenith" CD/LP/Track Review Zenith
by Budd Kopman
Published: March 1, 2016
Read "Early Americans" CD/LP/Track Review Early Americans
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 22, 2016
Read "On Ceremony" CD/LP/Track Review On Ceremony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 17, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!