Bobby Watson & New Horizon – Keepin’ it Real – Smoke Sessions Records #SSR-2004- 58:36 – *****
(Bobby Watson – alto sax; Josh Evans or Giveton Gellin – trumpet; Victor Gould – piano; Curtis Lundy – bass; Victor Jones – drums)
The title of Bobby Watson’s new CD, recorded for Smoke Sessions Records, is an apt description for Watson’s career. For nearly five years, Bobby was the musical director for one of the later editions of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Blakey was noted as an incubator for a massive number of hard bop legends. To name a few there was Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Timmons, and Wynton Marsalis. Blakey both mentored and nurtured his band members to go on to lead their own groups. Bobby Watson has done the same.
Bobby continued that tradition, especially with pianists such as Benny Green, Geoff Keezer, Joey Calderazzo, and Orrin Evans. His bands, Horizon, and Horizon Reassembled, recorded several outstanding hard bop issues. The constant was an exploration of contagious soulful blues, and hard bop themes. Bassist Curtis Lundy was there, and is still a member of Bobby’s new band, New Horizon.
Watson is also a jazz educator, serving as a faculty member of the William Patterson University and Manhattan School of Music, before becoming the head of Jazz Studies at University of Missouri/Kansas City for two decades, just leaving recently.
New Horizon features two young incredible trumpet talents, Josh Evans and Giveton Gellin. They split the nine tracks, with Evans on six numbers and Gellin playing on three. Both can blister, and warmly blow. Along with Watson’s “groovealicious” alto, the horn blend is sublime, and brings a classic Blue Note feel that will be beyond addicting to hard bop junkies. (I had the pleasure to see Giveton last summer in Portland, when he was briefly touring with bassist Ben Wolfe. He is a major trumpet talent, whose future is unlimited…). Victor Gould is on piano. Listeners might remember him warmly from his time with trumpeter, Jeremy Pelt.
“Condition Blue” from Jackie McLean opens this CD. It will immediately grab your attention. The title track follows, and its groovy goin’ to Sunday church gospel vibe, led by Bobby is needed during these troubling times. Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free,” gives more of the same spiritually uplifting vibe. I also dug Bobby’s read of Miles Davis’ “Flamenco Sketches.” Blakey Messenger fans will love Curtis Lundy’s “Elementary My Dear Watson 2020.” As a closer, Bobby revisits his 1998 classic album Love Remains, on “The Mystery of Ebop” with drummer Victor Jones taking lead.
We don’t have baseball right now, but Bobby Watson and New Horizon hits it out of the ball park on this fantastic release. His hometown Kansas City Royals could use Watson’s power and slick interplay if their season ever kicks off. New Horizon is a fine blend of ace veterans and young talent.
Keepin’ it Real
Elementary, My Dear Watson
Someday We’ll All Be Free
One for John
The Mystery of Ebop