Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bobby Watson - The Gates BBQ Suite (Self-released, 2010)

Alto saxophonist and composer Bobby Watson was at the forefront of the New York jazz scene from the late 70's to the late '90's playing with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and recording a series of albums as a leader. In 2000, he returned home to Kansas City to teach at the local university and re-connect with the big band legacy of the city's past. On this album, five years in the making, he leads the University's big band on a set of originals that pay tribute to the great culinary delight of the southwest: Barbecue. "May I Help You" opens the album with with bold brass and drums settling down to mid-tempo swing, while "Beef on a Bun" really gets things moving with fast, propulsive swing making way for a nice understated guitar solo against bass and drums. Watson's solo comes in fast and boppish, trading sections with some hot tenor before the fast and swinging full band returns to take things out. The strutting "Heavy on the Sauce" has a medium tempo swing feel setting the stage for a soaring light alto saxophone solo. Swaggering trombone also muscles into the mix before the end. "Blues for Ollie" has the horns wading on over light piano, bass and drums. Bright sounding trumpet breaks out for a solo as the horns riff joyfully underneath. Punchy horns poke and prod with nicely arranged section work. After a cool sounding hand percussion opening, "The President's Tray" sways to gently swinging horns. Textured crosshatched riffing is well orchestrated, and sets the stage for a mild and nimble alto solo over interesting rhythm. "One Minute Too Late" slows the pace to a mellow feel with majestic horns building to a brassy yearning feel. "Wilkes' BBQ" wraps up the program with an opening bass solo evolving into some fast funky swing and a soulful saxophone interlude. This was a nice and swinging big band album that speaks well for the students of the jazz program, and Watson's ability as a band leader, player and composer. The music fits in well with the riff based swinging big band music that made the city famous in the pre-war years, deftly updating that sound while staying true to its traditional roots. Gates BBQ Suite - Facebook.com

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