(Bobby Watson – alto sax; Leon Thomas – trumpet; Harold O’Neal – piano; Warren Wolf – vibes; Curtis Lundy – bass; Quincy Davis – drums)
Bobby Watson is a true professional jazz artist – someone who can carry a session as a sideman or lead a group with ease. He largely came on the scene as a leading player under one of the mid to later editions of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Having Blakey as a mentor always brought out the best out of a musician as Blakey was one to gently tutor a musician into what it takes to be a jazz pro – both in work ethic and pride – never showy just for the sake of showmanship. Nearly all the editions of the Jazz Messengers, even to the very end of Blakey’s career, swing like crazy. Graduating from the Blakey School prepared an artist to take over leadership positions and share knowledge with the new school of young players. Bobby Watson learned his lessons well and has led numerous bands over the last twenty plus years or so.
Watson’s new band, at least temporarily taking the place of Horizon – his last super group that included Terell Stafford, Victor Lewis, and Edward Simon – includes vibes for the first time. It also features relatively lesser-known sidemen in Leon Thomas, Harold O’Neal, Warren Wolf, and Quincy Davis. Watson is passing on the torch as did Blakey so often.
One thing that has not changed for Watson is his love of the blues as evidenced by Wilkes BBQ, Deep Pockets, and Peace Love and Carrots. They each have the hard bop sweet swing that Blakey’s bands had in spades. Ballads are not ignored as pianist O’Neal contributes the gorgeous Purple Flowers, where trumpeter Thomas shines. Other interesting tunes are the Latin-tinged Aye Caramba, and the vibe tribute to Milt Jackson, For Milt, penned by Warren Wolf.
As usual Watson’s alto playing is spot perfect and ever so soulful. It’s such a pleasure to review a Watson-led CD issue, as you know you are getting a quality product. Long live Bobby Watson!
Tracklist: Wilkes BBQ, Purple Flowers, Deep Pockets, Climbing the Stairs, Ay Caramba, For Milt; Peace, Love and Carrots, Del Corazon, Timeless, From the Heart, Marcus Vein
– Jeff Krow