Ernie Watts Quartet – Home Light – Flying Dolphin Records FD2012 67:56****

( Ernie Watts –  tenor saxophone; Christof Saenger – piano; Rudi Engel – acoustic bass; Heinrich Koebberling – drums)

Ernie Watts is a survivor. Ernie survived touring with the Buddy Rich band in the  mid 60s , he survived being an integral part of Charlie Haden’s Quartet West  for close to thirty years, and withstood twenty years playing tenor saxophone in The Tonight Show Band under Doc Severinsen. Now at seventy-three, not only is he still surviving, he is thriving and playing with the verve, fire, and intensity that he exhibited in these former incarnations as evidenced by his latest quartet release Home Light.

Recorded in Cologne, Germany with band mates who have been together for over eighteen years, the group shows that it understands the necessity of a complete and definitive contemporary jazz sound. Watts is the heart of this session which starts with one his own compositions “I Forgot August”, which is built on the chord changes of I’ll Remember April. The number begins with some intricate harmonic unison playing between Watts and pianist Saenger that leads into a kaleidoscopic solo from Watts. The rhythm section buzzes around Watts with a pulsating beat. Pianist Saenger picks up the thread of the composition with some stellar single note playing. All in all it is a powerful opener.

Portrait Ernie Watts

Ernie Watts

“Cafe Central 2am” by drummer Heinrich Koebberling has an easy swinging vibe where Watts’ brawny tone is in command throughout. Pianist Saenger builds a layered solo in his unadulterated style, and bassist Rudi Engel demonstrates that he has a big effective sound that fully integrates within the group.

Another original “Horizon” by Watts and pianist Saenger is a contemplative ballad with long flowing lines that features patterned playing from both contributors.  A composition by bassist Sam Jones is a tribute to his mentor Oscar Pettiford entitled “O.P.” and was showcased on Jones’ 1963 release Down Home.  A delightful swinger, the number prances along offering all the band members a chance to show they are in sustained mastery of their instruments, with solo efforts that have a jazzy harmonic quality.  

The title track is “Home Light” an original by Watts and M.Seales. Watts has dedicated it to his friend, drummer and percussionist Ndugu Chancler who died in 2018. This is gospel framed number with the notes played by all participants stuffed with lots of imagination and soulful meaning. 

This is a release filled with undaunted spirit and a warm abundant sound.

TrackList:
I Forgot August
Café Central 2am
Distant Friends
Frequie Flyiers
Horizon
O.P.
Spinning Wheel
Joe
Home Light

—Pierre Giroux

More information and music available through Ernie Watts’ website:

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