|Saxophonist Bobby Watson consistently tops the critics’ music polls, likely because he is not one to stand still or be limited by categories. He commands every style of music he embraces from free jazz to swing to big band to hard bop. And with his highly individual sound, a GRAMMY® nomination and impeccable jazz credentials as the former musical director for Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Watson is simply one of the finest players of his generation. His recent nomination by the Jazz Journalists Association as best alto saxophonist of 2003 is further testimony to that.
For his 2nd Palmetto Records release, Watson turned to his past to take another strong step forward in his career. On Horizon Reassembled, Watson reconvenes his well-regarded quintet from the ‘90s. While the band’s origins began in the early ‘80s with Curtis Lundy, Steve Nelson, Kenny Washington and Mulgrew Miller – and incorporated others along the way including Martin “Smitty” Smith, Benny Green, Roy Hargrove, Frank Lacy, Slide Hampton, John Hicks and Joey Calderazzo – the “happy band,” as fans called Horizon, solidified in the early ‘90s with the members featured on this CD: Edward Simon, piano; Terell Stafford, trumpet; Bobby Watson, saxophone; Essiet Okon Essiet, bass; and Victor Lewis, drums.
The resulting CD recaptures their happy sound and reveals an all-star ensemble at work. Watson’s “Lemoncello” sets the mood for a fun reunion and showcases a great solo exchange between Stafford and Watson. Simon’s “Pere” infuses Latin music elements into his classical jazz approach, creating an atmospheric effect. Watson’s wife Pam contributes a forlorn ballad, “The Love We Had Yesterday.” Next Watson borrows a fast, energetic number, “Ginger Bread Boy” from Jimmy Heath before leading into the CD’s melodic, upbeat theme song, “Horizon Reassembled.” The band slows down with Burt Bacharach’s famous song, “The Look of Love” and then heats back up for Victor Lewis’ composition, “Eeeyyess,” which features a crescendo drum opener by Lewis and swinging staccato horn interplay. A brooding drum and bass line mark “Permanoon” by pianist and composer, David Moore, a student of Watson’s at UMKC’s Conservatory of Music. The dark, sultry mood continues into “Dark Days” by Watson, who adds a slow R&B groove and then ends the tune with a special interlude featuring Stafford’s muted trumpet work. The CD closes with Essiet’s composition, “Xangongo,” a fast-paced number that mixes world and jazz rhythms to intoxicating effect.