BOBBY WATSON - Price: € 12.90 - COD: 212









original Liner Notes By Ira Gitler


Anyone who is familiar with the work of Bobby Watson during his four and half years at Art Blakey University, or in the series of fine albums he has made for Red under his own leadership (Perpetual Groove173; Appointment in Milano 184; and Round Trip 187) knows that this powerful, passionate, personal player has continued to grow with each passing year.  The last two were taped a days apart during early February of 1985 in Milan with the Open Form Trio consisting of three fine Italian musicians: pianist Piero Bassini; bassist Attilio Zanchi; and drummer Giampiero Prina.

Now we have another high-level offering by Watson, this time taped in New York (November 13, 1986) with three young veterans of Big Apple scene: pianist John Hicks; bassist Curtis Lundy; and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith. It offers not so much a progress report as a depth chart. Musicians who work at their craft, deepen their art; developing their art, they polish their craft

Of times the changes from year to year are imperceptible until you have listened closely. The further maturation of the soul, however, can sometimes be realized more readily because it is felt. Bobby Watson is still evolving. You can feel it and hear it.

The lanky soft spoken, alto saxophone firebrand admits to an early love of Cannonball Adderly and Jackie McLean but cites brass wizard Clark Terry as an even earlier influence. “He was the first pro I ever met, “ says Watson. “It was at high school clinic in Minnesota.”

Tenor saxophone behemoth George Coleman in another man prominently mentioned by Bobby. “He has been a big help since I’ve been in New York.” And then, of course, there is Blakey, “the most positive cat I’ve ever met. He is so positive; all he thinks about is music. Art behind the drums has a look of complete joy.”

Bobby Watson is fully conversant with the joy of total immersion in the creation of righteous music that speaks person to person, people to people. In Love Remains he offer a mix of varied originals, with the variety extending to within separate categories such as ballads and blues.

Watson calls “The Mystery of Ebop” a “drum tune, really. Smitty takes us in to different sections. It was written straight but I wanted to present the rhythm section, give the drums a chance to be part of the rhythm section, to do more than just keep time.”

The plaintive melody and Watson’s solo, at times into free form before moving straight-ahead, both have a keening, mysterious quality. Hicks adds his strength and invention and Smith, as noted, is an important factor throughout. Lundy supplies the solidity-structured underpinning.

“Love Remains”, a collaboration between Bobby and his wife Pamela, is dedicated to Nelson and Winnie Mandela. “We called it “Love Remains” says Bobby “because if you wake up in the morning with a positive attitudes, and after all you go trough at the end of the day, if love remains everything will be all right, no matter where you are I had written an “A” section,” he explains, “and my wife wrote words to it and to a bridge that hadn’t yet been written.”

Watson’s alto radiates a lambent; healing feeling wrapped in his tender, blue-honey sound. Hicks continues the mood. In the theme statements Lundy’s bass conveys sinuous, drum-like rhythms and Smith adds some expressive percussion effects. “Smitty has perfect pitch,” reveals Bobby. “He had a gong and bells that he used with Dave Holland. I asked him to bring them. He’s so versatile.”

“Blues for Alto” is a medium swinger with a bite that finds Watson playing call and response with himself, using different registers, before heating things up. Then Hicks builds his own intense solo. “I like his momentum-his forward motion,” says Bobby. “ “We call him “the 747” because of the way he takes off. He has his own vocabulary in his solos.”

After a bowed solo by Lundy, Watson and Hicks get into a round of “fours” with Smith.

Watson allows how “ode to Aaron,” a 17 bar pattern with a tag, is “sort of influenced by 'E.S.P.' ”

Bobby combines speed with substance as does Hicks whose rapid-fire delivery transmits a message which melds style and idea.

“Dark Days” is an anti-apartheid expression. “The starts and stops are to let the music breathe,” says Watson. “There are different ways to present a rhythm section, “ he adds. “The bass line has a counter melody. I always like to write figure for the bass.”

The piece was written after Watson saw a photograph of a South African child’s little coffin in the newspaper.

Bobby’s solo is a lament but it has resolve and hope as well, making fine use of dynamics. Hicks’ solo also has a stately beauty.

Watson announces Lundy’s minor blues “So-Thang,” with a growl. “I’m playing a D and singing an A, “he illuminates. Hicks grooves naturally and Watson scores with some upper- register cries. Bobby describes Lundy’s blues as a rhythmic theme. He’s inspired by rhythm and that influences his note choice. He thinks rhythmically.”

Note Watson, a pianist who majored in accompaniment, began writing after meeting her husband. She wrote “Ms. B. C.” for Art Blakey’s Album of the year on Timeless. “The love we had yesterday,” a yearning ballad, colored by Watson blue-green alto, has an early-morning after mood. After Hicks’ slowly-turning prism of a solo lets in some light between the slats of the venetian blind, Watson’s bittersweet and sour story sums up the dead end of a once-shared love, subtly alluding to “Summertime” along the way. Lundy bows it out.

The seven selections on this album, in their conception and interpretation, have a weight that will be with you long after the actual listening. Love certainly does remain, along with many other positive feelings.



(Swing To Bop, Oxford University Press)